Sunday, September 29, 2013

Congratulations Pennsylvania, and Thanks Again to our Florida IT Team!

Pennsylvania launched an integrated electronic management system last week. The Workers' Compensation Automation and Integration System, or WCAIS is described as the first system of its kind. It integrates data-sharing among three Pennsylvania state agencies, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation with the Workers' Compensation Appeal Board and the Workers' Compensation Office of Adjudication."

We do not have such an integrated program in Florida. In our system there is no integration of data between the Division of Workers' Compensation (in PA, the Bureau) and the OJCC (PA's Office of Adjudication). It is not that this integration of data has not been discussed. In fact the leadership of the Workers' Compensation Section has been driving a conversation lately about precisely this question. A recent post on this blog questioned what benefits might come from a data warehouse that combined information from multiple sources. 

The news from PA is inspiring, as it demonstrates the dedication to an electronic paradigm that will pave the way to the future. Every state should be focusing on the way the internet and its benefits could be leveraged to save system participants time and money. This is an idea whose time came years ago. Pennsylvania's new program will allow:

        Filing electronic petitions
        Filing electronic answers
        Uploading electronic exhibits
        Provide all judicially required filings electronically 
        Notify parties of document filing
        File appeals in an integrated system

The cost is a consideration. According to Workcompcentral.com, ("WCC") reporting on the PA roll out, PA is one of two states mentioned that used Deloitte Consultants for design and implementation of their WCAIS program. Pennsylvania did not comment on the cost of their deployment of the new WCAIS. WCC reports that "online records kept by the state Department of General Services, however, show that the department signed a $45,097,181 contact with Deloitte Consulting for the WCAIS system in October 2010."

WCC also notes that California used Deloitte for their adjudication system. The California program, called Electronic Adjudication Management System, or EAMS, was designed by Deloitte. Their initial plan was built for $36 million, but did not work as anticipated. Functionality was delivered for an additional $25 million (yes, the total is $61 million).  These are incredible figures.

The Florida OJCC system does not integrate with the Florida Division of Workers' Compensation. There is a clear distinction between claims and litigation in Florida. This was the design when the operations of the Florida Department of Labor were divided in the government reorganization of 2001. Regulation and claims went to the Division of Workers' Compensation in the Department of Financial Services. The adjudication process went with the OJCC, nominally a part of the Division of Administrative Hearings. As I learn more about the nation's programs, the more I find that Florida's division of responsibility in this regard is unique. 

It is not clear what benefits for litigators the new WCAIS provides, which are not available in Florida's e-JCC. It appears that our program provides most, if not all, of the benefits delivered by WCAIS, including the electronic appellate processing (though to deliver that, our system integrates and interacts with the State Court System). 

The main difference I can find between WCAIS and e-JCC is cost. Pennsylvania appears to be involved to the tune of $45 million and California to the tune of $61 million. The Florida adjudication system is rapidly approaching the investment of our first million dollars. For what California and Pennsylvania have reportedly invested ($106 million), each of the fifty states could have had two each of the Florida e-JCC and case management processes. 

Perhaps there are additional functions that these programs bring to the table. It is likely I do not understand all of the tools which accompany WCAIS. I am not faulting the development or deployment of these programs. I applaud them. I am, however, pretty proud of the little IT department that could (at DOAH), and all that they have managed with a small fraction of the resources with which others have been blessed. 

Our IT team does not get the spotlight they deserve. The Davis Productivity Awards have given them honorable mentions, but no real recognition. I find this astounding when they have done so much for a fraction of what other states have spent. Our IT team is Susan Brown, Jeff Russell, Wayne Reynolds, Kevin Wallace, Alex Harris, and Scott Rioux. 

The actual e-JCC and other programming has been provided by Russ Vaughn and Rich Vaughn. In the midst of their duties regarding our hardware, connectivity, networking, and more, they have driven the development and deployment of the OJCC case management program, i-JCC, e-JCC, our robust website presence, integrated scheduling for our one-of-a-kind videoteleconfernce capability, and so much more. They deserve the credit. They have accomplished with pennies the same miracles for which others have required millions. 

Congratulations Pennsylvania! The benefits of full-scale electronic filing will be immediate and appreciated. I predict that your commitment to this paradigm will bring great efficiency and benefits to litigators, employers and employees alike. The world is rapidly changing around us; the commitment of leaders like PA will be noted and appreciated as other states join the electronic paradigm and provide these benefits to their customers. 


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