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Accela Announces New Environmental Health Application

The company adds environmental health to its growing list of civic applications — which already included marijuana regulation, among other things — touting research and interoperability as keys to emerging topics.

Cloud software company Accela, which counts more than 80 percent of America’s largest cities as clients, is adding environmental health to its growing suite of civic apps.

This week Accela announced its Civic Application for Environmental Health, a software-as-a-service, digital enterprise, health and safety management system for health departments to handle permit applications, reviews, inspections, citations and other administrative tasks.

The environmental health application is the latest in a portfolio of Accela civic applications including others for cannabis regulation, short-term rental registration, planning and building, which are available as standalone products or as part of Accela’s government software suite.

These followed from the company’s launch of a “Center of Expertise” in January 2018 to research emerging topics in public-sector technology. Darryl Booth, Accela’s general manager of environmental health who was a subject matter expert for the center, joined Accela in 2015 after the company bought his environmental health firm, Decade Software. He said the most significant work in his field is done at the local level, and like much of government, it’s most successful when it includes other departments and jurisdictions with overlapping goals.

“Health departments sometimes suffer from being a silo, because their needs are so specialized, and they have a data system that is only theirs,” Booth said. “But they’re part of an enterprise — there are financial transactions going on, there are building projects that span in and out of environmental health, and Accela brings that whole picture.”

He said two things distinguish Accela’s latest civic application from the competition: It draws upon the design of about 130 health department data management systems around the country, and it’s part of a software package that communicates between other related agencies, incorporating business licensing, planning and building.

“When you have to custom-build interfaces between X and Y dissimilar systems … that’s when you get into trouble in terms of cost, risk and maintainability,” Booth said. “We can come in and offer the end-to-end approach.”

More specifically, Accela’s news release said the application will shorten the permit process, digitize and automate key communications, manage the routing of inspections, automate inspection scheduling based on previous risk factors and other variables, and improve an inspector’s ability to collect and use data.

Booth added that Accela plans to announce more civic applications in the coming months.

“The approach to come to market is being repeated, now that we’re showing some success in cannabis regulation, short-term rentals, business licensing, planning and so forth.”

The news came just before CSDC released its own environmental health software aimed at local governments in California.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to clarify that the civic app is not Accela's first environmental health offering.

Andrew Westrope is managing editor of the Center for Digital Education. Before that, he was a staff writer for Government Technology, and previously was a reporter and editor at community newspapers. He has a bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and lives in Northern California.