The Washington State Department of Health (WA DOH) has a clear mission—to protect and improve the health of all people in Washington. COVID-19 highlighted just how critical transparency and regulatory compliance is for healthcare agencies and their citizens. A key priority for many health departments—especially WA DOH—as they look toward the future is to implement new technology to improve citizen engagement in their policymaking efforts.
WA DOH was limited in functionality by their existing homegrown system, as well as an additional Sharepoint site, for managing their rulemakings. These limitations would prevent the agency from being as adaptive as they needed to be. WA DOH was leveraging their Sharepoint site for collaboration with rule reviews and approvals happening in their separate, homegrown system. When their homegrown system would break or need updates, it was often a time- and labor-heavy process to fix.
In addition, this system did not provide them with the ability to manage and analyze citizen engagement on their policies. This led the agency to partner with Esper.
A snapshot of how Washington State DOH is using Esper:
- Streamlining overall rulemaking processes and workflows
- Increasing collaboration across rulemakings with key stakeholders
- Improving transparency, both internally and publicly, on regulations that impact employees, citizens and businesses
- Having a single source of truth for all regulatory reviews
- Increasing citizen engagement by incorporating public comments into ongoing rulemakings
Process enhancements and consistency were critical for WA DOH
With WA DOH being one of the three largest regulators in the State of Washington, consistency in their rulemaking is critical. Additionally, WA DOH must work with several other agencies when drafting their rules—including Washington State Labor & Industries, Washington State Department of Ecology and the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.
The agency is broken up into four divisions—Health Systems QA (HSQA), Environmental Public Health, Prevention and Community Health (PCH) and Disease Control and Health Statistics (DCHS)—with a bulk of their regulation coming from HSQA which handles all of their healthcare providers and facilities.
Many agencies throughout the state do their rulemaking management through spreadsheets or emails, but for the sheer volume of rules WA DOH manages this was not an efficient process. WA DOH scoped other policy management platforms, but ultimately chose Esper to help their agency achieve the consistency and enhancements they needed to do their work at scale
Esper and the Washington State DOH partnered in December of 2021 with the joint goal of modernizing and streamlining the department’s regulatory and citizen engagement processes. Esper is able to bring all policies into a single, cloud-based platform and structure this data to identify policies in need of review.
Washington State DOH staff will be able to easily search all of their regulations, laws and policy documents—as well as all federal and state regulations and laws. Stakeholders can also collaboratively draft amendments and repeals, share rulemakings for review and approval and keep track of all progress on ongoing rulemaking projects.
Washington DOH will use Esper to research existing regulations, collaboratively draft rulemakings and incorporate public comments.
Improving citizen engagement in the rulemaking process
Another critical requirement was the ability to increase the agency’s engagement with citizens via their public comments period.
With Esper, Washington State DOH can import, transcribe and group public comments from impacted citizens. The agency can then seamlessly attach the comments to their ongoing rulemakings, helping the agency achieve their goals of improved transparency and citizen engagement.
Standardized and automated rulemaking workflows
Historically, tracking the status of an ongoing rulemaking and moving rule packages throughout the process was done manually by a WA DOH staffer. This included an endless stream of email chains as well as other communication and collaboration challenges.
With Esper, WA DOH was able to automate all of their rulemaking workflows—from standard to emergency—and create a standardized process from start-to-finish for their rules work. This includes beginning their rulemakings, moving to their interested parties work and through adoption.
How can Esper help your agency?
To learn more about Esper’s rulemaking and policymaking platform, please schedule some time with one of our government experts.