March 25, 2016
By Audrey Fraizer
So, why did the Academy trade in the traditional paper route in favor of an electronic data exchange system?
What’s all this about going green?
If you’ve spent far too much office time hunting through stacks of paper looking for a performance statistic or certification date and grimacing each time you have to make multiple paper copies when correcting an error, the answer is easy.
“It was frustrating,” said Carlynn Page, IAED Associate Director and ACE Project Manager. “It was frustrating for me. It was frustrating for reviewers, and it was frustrating for people going through the ACE process.”
And there’s no getting around the benefits of making the switch to online accreditation, Page added.
For example, going paperless, she said:
• Reduces costs and opens up space
• Streamlines the accreditation and re-accreditation process
• Enhances document security (through the use of encryption)
• Provides quicker access to information
• Makes the process accessible anywhere
• Boosts productivity
• Improves data quality
The Academy’s Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system automates the entire ACE process, making it faster, more economical, and simply better for everyone compared to the old way of paper, binders, and shipping costs. It provides end-to-end content management by linking documents to content gathering, tracking, and compiling and organizing for an efficient one-stop shop for ACE application management.
Every point of accreditation—from Point 1 to Point 20—can be completed online using software that integrates tutorials, task assignments, color-coded progress bars, and virtual Academy assistance. The steps begin at authorization—the agency enters data identifying it as a current user of the medical, fire, police, or ECNS systems. Once Page verifies the information, the process is a go.
ACE crowd pleasers—and there are already 199 applications submitted using the EDI since it opened for operation in October 2014—include real-time analytics that visually display the percent of work completed and the percent yet to be completed in each of the Twenty Points.
Real-time analytics gives instant access to the most current data, which means ACE data can be reviewed using a more dynamic approach with less interruption to workflow. Real-time analytics also alerts Page to when and where assistance is needed before she’s asked. A variety of permitted users can access the detailed transaction data in a timely fashion (granted they are provided official access) that is in a far more protected environment than filing cabinets, bookshelves, and desktops.
“You’re able to see the tasks still in the application process and how much of the work remains for each point,” she said. “The less work in progress, the closer you are to submitting your ACE application. It really adds to motivation.”
The EDI approach also requires far less storage space for future reference since everything is archived on a hard drive available to the Academy and the respective center. Other benefits include cleaner documentation, speedier confirmations, and daily reports that give an up-to-date audit trail and application status. There are no time delays to transport the data. A new submission process gives users the choice to upload documents and/or enter text for each sub-point.
Melissa Blessing, Public Safety Dispatcher III and Training Specialist, manages the tri-ACE process for Harford County Department of Emergency Services, Forest Hill, Md. She said the paperless process saves her time. One grammatical, factual, or contextual change and she’d be leafing through three binders—or more depending on the point—to find where the change needed to be made.
“That takes time,” Blessing said. “And then there’s sending the binders to the Academy. It all added time to the process.”
There’s also time saved in organization by going online, compared to putting pages into a binder.
“If the information was somewhere else than where would you thought it should be, that prolonged the process,” said Don Perry, EMD/QA Coordination, in-house EMD Instructor, Metro/Nashville Emergency Communication Center, Tenn.
Perry understands both perspectives, having been a reviewer for the Board of Accreditation for nearly 10 years and responsible for his agency’s ACE packets. Metro/Nashville is an accredited EMD ACE since 2000, and an accredited EFD ACE since 2010. So far, he’s only been on the review side, anticipating what his experience will be going through online re-accreditation.
“I hope it’s as easy for the user,” he said. “I really do hope that’s the case when I’m ready to submit ours for re-accreditation.”
But it’s not just time saved; trees are saved too.
The pieces of paper needed to satisfy the Twenty Points of Accreditation requirements could run up to 400, beefing up the ACE binder to an unhealthy 4 pounds. Two sets of binders were required, potentially adding up to 800 sheets of paper. A ream of paper (500 sheets) equals 6 percent of a tree.
“Multiply that by the number of ACE binders we receive each year, and pretty soon you’re talking about a forest,” Page said.
Visit the Academy’s online accreditation site to start your journey toward ACE at accreditation.emergencydispatch.org.