Oneida County Enhances Communication and Collaboration During COVID-19 and Beyond
5 min read
• Pandemic response required quick solutions to support staff and residents
• Needed a way to immediately provision devices and enable access to systems remotely to support work from home
• Channels for reaching out to residents and local businesses impacted by COVID-19 did not exist
• Enabled remote work using Laserfiche
• Provided a way for the health department to reach out to people with COVID-19 and prevent further spread
• Collected local business surveys to gain an understanding of the pandemic’s impact on the economy
Oneida County, New York, faced an unprecedented set of challenges from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. As a provider of essential services, the county government took measures to protect the health and safety of employees — especially important in one of the states with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. The county embraced digital transformation across its many departments long before the pandemic. County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. has prioritized the implementation of technology including Laserfiche to drive innovation and effective, efficient services for the county. This approach resulted in an easier transition to a remote workforce, and same-day turnaround time of Laserfiche processes related to the county’s COVID-19 response being accessible online.
Within the first 30 days of the pandemic in the U.S., the county transitioned over 60% of its workforce from in-office to work-from-home by using existing automated workflows in Laserfiche and other technologies. At the same time, the county rolled out three key automated processes using Laserfiche to assess employees’ abilities to work remotely; monitor and support constituents who have tested positive for COVID-19; and assess business impact in the wake of the pandemic.
“This pandemic has presented county governments with many challenges,” Picente said. “Early on in the crisis, Oneida County acted quickly and decisively to safeguard the public and those maneuvers put us in position to be one of the first places in the state to enter into phased reopening. Our use of technology has been a key factor in continuing operations, and enabling continuity of citizen services. We had been using Laserfiche in many different ways prior to this, and we were able to build on those solutions to develop new ones that fit our current needs.”
Springing Into Action: Enabling Work from Home
At the beginning of March, when many government organizations across the country were just starting to realize the impact the virus could have on day-to-day life, Oneida County used Laserfiche to create an electronic form that helped assess various factors that enable county employees to work from home.
Each employee was required to fill out the form confirming home internet access, whether or not they needed any county-issued devices to do their job properly (e.g., tablets, laptops, cellphones), the percentage of daily tasks that each individual worker could do with virtual access to the county network, and how long each employee estimated they could effectively work remotely.
“The form centralizes the overall transition process and standardizes the information collected from each employee, rather than leaving it up to various managers or individuals,” said Oneida County IT Director AnneMarie Ambrose.
County leadership knew, however, that in order to best serve citizens during an emergency, the county needed to go beyond transitioning its own employees to remote roles. The county needed to ensure better information sharing among departments that serve residents.
Monitoring and Supporting Citizens with COVID-19
As COVID-19 spread throughout the state of New York, local health departments were quickly taxed with determining what citizens may have had contact with the virus, who had been tested, the results of each test, and more. Oneida County staff realized immediately that the same Laserfiche technology the county had worked with since 2013 could be leveraged to assist the local health department.
Laserfiche electronic forms were rolled out to local healthcare providers across the county so that each practitioner could give the county’s health department information about people who had been tested for COVID-19, as well as their healthcare provider and physician’s information. This process now provides the county with basic information and the ability to reach out to people who have tested positive in order to make sure they have the proper isolation guidelines, follow up with them to see how their self-isolation is going, and prevent further spread.
Taking this a step further, the health department contacts those under monitoring each day, to track vital signs and give patients a channel to ask for additional assistance if needed. “Because there are hundreds and hundreds of people to contact on a daily basis, we decided to automate the process using Laserfiche,” Ambrose said.
The automated process enables patients to submit a consent form with their preferred method of contact (email, text or phone call) to the health department. Every day at 5 p.m., notifications are automatically sent to everyone in the database that needs to self-report, with a deadline of 11 a.m. the following day. The department also automatically receives a list of those who have not self-reported by 11 a.m., so they can be contacted by phone.
“During this challenging time in 2020, our technical staff quickly pivoted to help Oneida meet their needs with these digital forms and processes,” said Mike Rizzo, Laserfiche operations manager for ICC Community Development Solutions, the county’s Laserfiche solution provider. “Our team helped lighten the load of several county departments, especially the Health Department, in order for government operations to continue to function at the highest level during this unprecedented time.”
Outreach to Local Businesses and Planning for Post-Pandemic Life
Meanwhile, the team at Oneida County knew that local businesses were feeling the brunt of stay-at-home orders that were going into place in New York State and across the U.S. It was essential for county leaders to assess the economic impact on businesses as well as create a better avenue for communication between citizens and their local government.
The Oneida County Planning Department leveraged Laserfiche to automate the process of collecting business impact surveys aimed at local businesses. The goal was to enable businesses to digitally submit information that would help the county understand the current state of the local economy, and what impact the virus is having on local businesses. Business owners have been asked to fill out the form with information such as how many people they employed before COVID-19; how many people they employ currently during the crisis; what revenue was in 2019 in comparison to now; whether they have business interruption insurance that will cover current losses; and how they think business will be after the state of emergency is lifted.
While the county’s first priority is of course to keep citizens as safe and healthy as possible, it also realizes the importance of planning for life after the crisis. Thus far, over 300 submissions have been made. The county is making sure that local businesses are not alone in this crisis and working with local business leaders to plan for what resources local businesses will need once the area is ready to reopen the economy.
As a result of the business impact survey, the county has been able to assist employers that are required by the State of New York, under Executive Order 202.16, to provide their employees with personal protection equipment (PPE). The county formed a consortium to get a supply of masks at a fair price, a testament to the county’s commitment to keeping citizens safe and healthy.
Oneida County continues to work closely with its Laserfiche Solution Provider, General Code, and Laserfiche to assess additional areas where technology can be applied to streamline operations and to ensure continuity of citizen services. The county already plans to bring additional services online using Laserfiche to automate essential processes to enhance the citizen experience. In the meantime, Oneida County continues to use these tools to provide a better avenue for communication between its citizens and their local government.
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