Case study: ACC on the portal case

Prevention, care, recovery. ACC could apply its corporate mantra to the bottom-line savings and business process improvements the crown entity is making with the help of portal technology.

Prevention, care, recovery. ACC could apply its corporate mantra to the bottom-line savings and business process improvements the crown entity is making with the help of portal technology — recovering costs, preventing budget blow-outs, taking care not to roll out the online plan too fast.

The 2000-employee, 30-branch organisation — a crown entity is government-owned but not a department — has been developing its three portals (public web, staff intranet, e-business extranet) with the aim of making available more information to staff, cutting publishing and delivery costs to health providers and clients, and increasing electronic lodgement of claims. It claims 40% e-lodgement at present and has a stated goal of having 75% of claims lodged electronically by June.

A few issues initially stood in the way of ACC’s vision.

Prior to 2001 much of ACC’s intranet, web and content management had been hosted externally. Cornwell, speaking at a portals conference in Auckland last week, said the arrangement with the outsourcer was appropriate for “dipping our toe into the web”. As usage of the website increased, however, page-loading latency was increasing and during 2001 the operation was migrated within the ACC and its look and feel redeveloped to be universal across the three portals. Cornwell didn’t name the outsourcer, though ACC had an association with Comtex before changing in late 2000.

Cornwell admits the site’s content management “hasn’t been as successful as we’d have liked”, but puts some of this down to having to cope with thousands of doc files rather than HTML.

Then there’s the sheer number of claims and invoices. From the 1.5 million claims handled yearly through the extranet portal, some seven million services are rendered, says Cornwell. About 90% are dealt with at the first point of contact; it is these relatively inexpensive transactions which are the easiest to automate.

ACC has long used electronic data interchange (EDI) via an intermediary which aggregates invoices from medical providers. The EDI link, however, over which 2.5 million invoices are sent each year — the rest are posted or faxed — assumes the provider has a compliant patient management system, and a relationship and link with the intermediary.

As for the website, the increased use of web forms in lieu of posted brochures and written emails is a “good cost saving”, says Cornwell, without being more specific. The site gets 200,000 requests per month, the majority to the injury prevention area.

The staff intranet portal, a Novell environment, has the same look and feel but 50,000 pages behind it. Staff resources include news, appointments, events and vacancies, access to timesheets, leave balance and payslips, as well as a collaboration forum and applications such as lead management. Online forms again save publishing costs and the procedural information has forced the organisation into creating better meta-data, Cornwell says.

As well as ironing out its data, out of the project ACC has gained firewalls, an identity server, J2EE web and application server, 128-bit encryption and digital certificate capability. ACC is a large user of Sun products, and Cornwell told Computerworld that the portals were developed using Sun technology and within the organisation’s general IT budgets.

Next, ACC is looking at generic XML form handling to support invoices. In time it would like to expose legacy functions as web services and fully mobilise staff using remote devices. It would also like to co-operate with other health sector players more so clients can deal with them as one. Constraints include back-end legacy systems, mostly two-tier, and diverse integration challenges. For the staff portal it eventually wants personalisation and customisation, access to all resources and adaptive content.

ACC is in the fairly early stages of becoming an organisation extensively supported by internet technology, says Cornwell. The return must be in proportion to the outlay, and there has to be something in it for health providers and levy payers, says Cornwell. “It’s probably about the right pace for us.”

For more on ACC’s e-strategy, visit here.

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