While the State of Alaska now has a fancy new dynamic tool to find providers it wasn’t always like that. In fact the Non-Certified Providers, Care Coordination and PCA lists were generated for posting to the website monthly by me. Below are how I built the lists:
Please keep in mind this was one of many drafts I did for the process but it serves well to show the level of detail I put into my writing. It is now an old procedure and has no HIPPA violations as Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse House and Acme are NOT real but were used frequently as test records in the database system. Please also note that DS3 is no longer used by the State of Alaska as well. Yes, it is very long (80 pages) but the final version was almost 200 pages and then it was discarded by management.
This was an incredibly complex project I was asked to help with initially and it became my “baby” after a while.
The whole purpose of the project was to track the results of on site reviews for Medicaid compliance. The project had completed a Survey Monkey survey and was struggling to compile and output letters after additional on site reviews had been completed. I took the survey results and the additional questions that the team needed and turned it into a multi sheet Excel, one for each site (1200 or so site based providers and equal that in Spreadsheets).
The first sheet was an import of the PDF from the survey so it was clear which site was being reviewed. The second sheet contained a macro driven questionnaire for the Compliance Team to use for reviews. The third sheet compiled the data entered into the second sheet and combined it with provider name, number and address information and was used for the first round of mail outs via email as well as merging the data to a form based PDF. The last sheet compiled additional compliance data as a way to determine what additional letters were needed.
The second piece of this project was a series of 8 letters, the initial letter telling them the results of their visit and an additional 6 for various levels of compliance plus one certifying the acceptance of the changes made during the process. These were all written in Word which was then used to do mail merged letters one at a time. From there the letter was converted to PDF and fill in form fields were added.
Adobe DC and Outlook do not do mail merges well and so a secondary Excel spreadsheet system was developed to assist with creating the emails and attaching the PDFs to emails. This system used a contact name, email, file name for the PDF and a static programmed instructional message for the body of the email.
Given that I worked on the functionality of the whole system solo and had no budget, I did however have tight timelines as the site reviews were in full swing when I was asked to tackle the project. I am forever grateful to my office mate who tested several times a day for me and offered invaluable feedback on the needed functionality.
The first run of the full project was tested in house and the Provider Certification & Compliance team was gracious enough to put up with and even make up data to help test the system for me and allow me to work out bugs. The first live test was 300 merges and mailings and out of that only 8 bounced all of which were because of a provider changing their email contact and not notifying the State of the change.
This process was used to generate another 3-5 rounds of emails in order to get the 1200 or so providers all in compliance with the regulations.
In addition to designing and developing the process from end to end, I also built a procedure manual for it and provided the team with training. A tool to track incoming responses was also built and generated reports for management.
All the macros were written in .Net. Only the actual mail merge portion is shown below. The Compliance Tool is on another page.
In 2011 my employer lost a legal case based on a simple reason: the documents were not date stamped. I remembered a couple years before dropping off paperwork and the office had a machine that my packet had gone on to, zipped through and out of curiosity I asked the clerk what the machine was. It was a date stamper, so I suggested we procure the same type of machine. Since it was my idea management agreed happily and asked me to do the research on machines, features and costs. I came back with a simple machine that would print a short line of text and the current or a programmed date. Exactly what we needed.
A process was developed so that everyone knew how to use the machine correctly and for several years and several hundred thousand pages the machine worked perfectly. Basic maintenance kept it going until it needed a full refurbish. I again sought permission for sending the machine for repair after finding out timelines and costs. Meanwhile we had to keep up with the date stamping some other way. I tried a funky trick with Word and footers that was bad and finally settled on using Adobe Pro. I had one of the very few copies of Adobe everyone else had Adobe Reader at the time. After a few minutes of exploring the options (I’d only had the software for a few days at the time) I found a way to add footers to all the pages of a document quickly, then I found the Workflows and automated it. Finally I presented my solution to management who again enthusiastically gave the green light to use the tricks I’d learned.
It wasn’t long until everyone else received an upgrade to Adobe DC, an enterprise edition of Adobe that has all the bells and whistles. I exported my workflow, sent it around to the team and now everyone can use either the machine which is up and running smoothly or they can use the Adobe Workflow.
The next major process improvement was for only part of the team and a specific project but it saves a lot of time. The basics of the process is to compare 2 or sometimes more documents for differences. This was being done manually, on paper and was taking a very long time when the project was on a very tight deadline.
Not long after this portion of the project was getting underway Adobe DC received an update with some new features. Being the sort who likes to know what software does I’d played with the feature of comparing documents, thought it was cool and filed the idea away in memory.
While chatting with my new office mate I found out what exactly she was doing, manually comparing documents so I described the new tool, showed it off briefly as it was late on a Friday, and left for home. Much to everyone’s delight the new tool was adopted Monday morning and has saved the team roughly 88% of their time on that not so small portion of the project.
I get a lot of questions and funny looks when I mention that my small business which was started in 1995 is focused solely on dolls. You see my original college major was Fashion Design and I focused on dolls as they are fun and easy to make a wide variety of garments for.
When I talk about the size range I get more incredulous looks since the smallest doll I have and have actually designed, drafted and sewn for is a 1/2″ baby doll.
The next largest is 2 1/2″ tall and has a hand beaded gown. From there I move to 1″ scale dolls and go larger still into 6-8″ children dolls, 10 1/2″ lady dolls, Barbie of course along with Gene, Kitty Collier and finally my beloved Letha Marie who is 3 ft 10″ tall and wears a child size 3 shoe. A couple of my dolls I literally poured the porcelain for and created from scratch before I dressed them.
If asked in an interview about my dolls I will brag on them never ending as I LOVE my dolls and my sewing work in all those scales. Letha placed 2nd at the Anaheim Doll show, several outfits for my 1″ and 1/2″ scale dolls have been featured in magazines as well as my larger dolls. Two of my dolls won 1st and 2nd place at the Alaska State Fair and were featured in a magazine.
Why am I so proud of the doll business overall though? Each pattern, and there are 100 and counting, takes a large amount of project management. Choosing resources, designs, colors, dolls, fabrics and trims takes time. Budgeting for a costume plus determining the shapes of pieces, testing patterns, technical writing is involved in each pattern for step by step instructions. Some designs were done as custom items for customers and thus I had to work closely with each one to get the tiny details right.
Over the years I also had to learn photography as well as web design and development. I started by scanning my dolls since I didn’t own a camera but I had a scanner. Once I had a camera I started working on my still life portrait skills, they are dolls! I had to learn to edit photos and add them manually to a website. My original site was 50 megs and over 200 hand coded pages. I taught myself SEO, Drupal, Joomla and eventually learned WordPress.
As for my books, those were herculean for me as I was also a new parent to an infant and then toddler which required a lot of time management and multi-tasking skills to go with the technical skills and all the testing and even book layout and production of the hard copies at first.
Why am I not still at this? I do it as a hobby now as it just will not support a family. I have totes of dolls and fabric and ideas filed away and when I find time I dig out a doll and start making something. I still work on my website when I can get a chance as well since I have photos and such that I still have not shared with the world.
Yes, my business is based on dolls but the skills used to create products as a one man shop are very transferable to a workplace. I use many of my time, task and project skills all the time at my previous job as well as at my current job.