Securing a handicap placard for drivers in Nebraska can be a time-consuming endeavor. After downloading an application from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website, patients must make an appointment to see their doctor to get their application filled out and approved. Next comes a visit to a DMV office with the application and ID, which is followed by the waiting game while the state processes the request and mails out the placard. From start to finish, getting the placard issued can easily take several weeks.

Betty Johnson, the DMV administrator charged with oversight of the handicap parking program, told Government Technology that during an agencywide review of agency procedures, placard processing surfaced as an area that could be improved.

“Our previous process really was very cumbersome, and required the exact people that we shouldn't force to make several stops to make several stops to apply for the permits,” Johnson explained. “It was really important to us that we streamline this from their perspective.”

The agency spent two years developing an electronic permit processing system. This included preparing the necessary changes to state statutes, which were signed by Gov. Dave Heineman in February 2011. The DMV’s technical partner on the project is Nebraska Interactive, a division of e-government company NIC.

A group of practitioners from the Nebraska Medical Association was enlisted to test a mockup of the electronic system. Once their suggestions to improve the online process were incorporated, the system was ready for a limited rollout.

The DMV partnered with a busy orthopedic center in Lincoln that approves a significant amount of handicap permit requests. Once the 30-day pilot program ran its course, officials decided that electronic processing was ready for statewide release.

The new online system provides access to any licensed physician, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner in the state of Nebraska – the same group authorized to approve paper applications. They enter patient information and provide their approval. Data is then transmitted electronically to the DMV.

At the DMV, officials review and accept approved placard applications, which are automatically added to the state’s database. Permits are then printed and mailed to patients. The simpler process shaves as much as two weeks off the DMV’s total processing time.

Electronic processing also saves critical time for medical offices by removing several manual steps required with paper forms and allowing providers to import an electronic receipt of the approved placard transaction directly into a patient’s medical record.

The Nebraska DMV is spreading the word to medical offices throughout the state that this new option is available. To date, every Nebraska medical license holder authorized to approve handicap permits for patients has been notified that the electronic option is online. Early statistics reveal that several hundred practitioners have taken advantage of the new service. According to officials, during the week of October 22, nearly 18 percent of all handicap permit processing was completed online.

To reach its goal of 80 percent online processing, the DMV will continue its outreach and education effort, publicizing the availability of the service to medical providers, partner organizations and directly to patients.

Noelle Knell, Assistant Web Editor Noelle Knell  |  Managing Editor

Government Technology managing editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of marketing and communications experience, writing about public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she graduated from the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.