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Office of Governor Pete Ricketts

Gov. Ricketts Highlights DHHS Licensing Process Improvements

Media Contacts:

Taylor Gage, Governor’s Office, 402-471-1970

Leah Bucco-White, DHHS, 402-471-9356


ACCESSNebraska demonstrating quality and results

A new hub will help scale process improvement activities across agencies


LINCOLN – Today, Governor Pete Ricketts showcased recent improvements to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) nurse licensing process.  These process improvements are the result of a persistent focus by the administration, which has successfully led to decreased call wait times at ACCESSNebraska, online environmental quality permitting, and infrastructure technology cost savings among other initiatives.


“One of my top priorities is creating a customer-friendly culture in state government,” said Governor Ricketts.  “No matter how well we are serving the people of Nebraska today, we can always do a better job tomorrow.  I applaud Courtney Phillips and her team for utilizing process improvement strategies to help more Nebraskans live better lives.”


The improvements made to nurse licensing include simplified license applications, streamlined screening, and faster turnaround time.  All of these changes are showing measurable and sustainable results.


“Our agency touches the lives of Nebraskans every day.  When people interact with us, our goal is to make the experience a positive one,” said DHHS CEO Courtney Phillips.  “One of our many priorities is a timely, customer-friendly process for the professionals we license.”


DHHS reviewed its processes and procedures for nursing applications last fall and found there were opportunities for improvements including:


  •        Nebraska’s nursing applicants experienced challenges with applications and instructions.
  •        The application processing time was lengthy.
  •        A high amount of applications arrived with errors or without supporting documents which leads to longer processing time.  


By employing the expertise of frontline staff and their executive leadership, DHHS improved their nurse licensing procedures by:


  •        Simplifying applications and providing clearer instructions.   Previous applications had a first time completion rate of almost 28 percent.  From February through March, the first time completion rate increased to 95 percent.
  •        Reviewing new nursing applications within three days.  Applicants know what is missing and they can get needed information back to DHHS in a timely manner.
  •        Reducing average application processing time from an average of about 73 days to 57.
  •        Increasing the number of applications processed on a weekly basis.  In February, DHHS processed an average of 50 applications a week.  This represents an increase from the prior average in late 2015 which was 27 applications a week.
  •        Implementing a voice automated routing system to direct callers with application questions to appropriate areas.
  •        Turning more resources into online resources including a redesigned licensure unit homepage to make information easier to find and online frequently asked questions that provide clear direction for nursing license applicants and set realistic expectations.




In addition to the nurse licensing improvements, process changes on the Economic Assistance side of ACCESSNebraska continue to show great results. 


The highest average call wait times in the last two years were in August 2014, reaching almost 24 minutes.  Last month, the average wait time was 2 minutes and 18 seconds.  To date in March, the average wait time is down to 1 minute and 8 seconds, representing new all-time lows for the call centers.


While providing a high level of service, Nebraska has improved its accuracy since the previous administration.  Some recent improvements include:


  •        Nebraska ranks in the top 10 nationally for our SNAP denial accuracy rate.  The SNAP Case and Procedural Error Rate was 23.70 percent for FFY 2014 and in FFY 2015 it improved to 10.09 percent. 
  •        In March 2015, the number of SNAP, or food stamp, applications processed within the federal guidelines was 88.68 percent.  At the end of February 2016, the percent completed on time was 97.67 percent.  
  •        Month-to-date, SNAP timeliness is 98.1 percent, showing improvement from 97.67 percent in February.


Nebraskans interested in regular updates on ACCESSNebraska’s performance can view a monthly report on the program’s performance here.  




To systematically facilitate process improvement activities throughout state government, Governor Ricketts also announced that the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) would be launching The Center for Operational Excellence (COE). 


This hub will assist agency directors and train staff in process improvement to help agencies build a customer-friendly culture, streamline operations, and more efficiently allocate their resources.   The COE will train personnel throughout code agencies using best-in-class tools to lead process improvement activities within their own department.  It will track results and will scale process improvement throughout state agencies.


Over the past several months, DAS has partnered with the University of Nebraska-Omaha’s Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) to provide initial training and mentoring support for Process Improvement Coordinators.  NBDC will continue to partner with the state as the COE rolls out process improvement activities across code agencies.


The vision for the COE was developed over the course of the past several months with the assistance of DAS Director Byron Diamond, Chief Human Resources Officer Sharon Pettid, and former Chief Operating Officer Felix Davidson.  Additional announcements about the COE will be made as the center is launched and process improvement activities take place.