Virginia takes benefits info online

Virginia has developed a Web-based program that enables commonwealth employees

to access and modify their health care and benefits information online.

The application, which integrates data from otherwise incompatible legacy

systems, should save seven to 10 days at the end of each yearly open enrollment

period that were needed to manually update the Department of Human Resource

Management (DHRM) databases.

It is also expected to substantially cut down the three to four weeks

it typically takes employees to collect, complete and return updated paper

forms to a DHRM office.

The next project, which could be in place by the end of August, will

match data from DHRM systems with data held in the Virginia Retirement System

(VRS), so that the state retiree program will have the same real-time update

capabilities of the employee system.

An initial idea to reconcile files between the two systems once or twice

a month was scrapped because it would've been too cumbersome, said Belchior

Mira, chief information officer at DHRM. The Web-based system also prevented

an expensive upgrade of the various systems to make them compatible.

"We [information technology] people are under increasing pressure to

find the best way to spend less money and use fewer people," Belchior said.

"So instead of trying to migrate these legacy systems, we thought why not

leave them as they are and simply use the Web" to integrate the data?

The state used integration software from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Mitem

Corp.

Belchior said the DHRM approach, once its success is demonstrated, could

be a template for data sharing programs among other state agencies.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached

at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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