Forty Years of Making a Difference: Where We Are (Part II)

13 Feb

In honor of our fortieth anniversary in 2019, we will be posting a series of posts from our founder, Jack Marston, Sr., reflecting on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we plan to go. These will be posted on the first three Wednesdays in February. Click here to read last week’s post about where we’ve been.

After all our success creating applications for the public health sector, we knew this is where we wanted to focus our efforts.

While spending time in these public health clinics, we saw that many of the same patients served in the local health departments were also mothers and children who were part of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Recognizing this crossover of clientele, we began developing an online and real-time WIC system. This project included the provision of WIC food vouchers for the WIC participants.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the federal government and other states became interested in replacing the paper vouchers issued to WIC participants with a more automated process, similar to a credit card. Together with Kentucky, we worked to convert the state’s food voucher process to an electronic card processing system using an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. This was the first online, real-time WIC EBT processing in the country. Kentucky was just the first of many WIC state agencies and tribal organizations to adopt WIC Direct, our EBT processing solution.

Building on what we started with Kentucky’s WIC system, we’ve also expanded to perform maintenance and enhancements services for two of the three State Agency Model (SAM) WIC MIS systems: SPIRIT and MPSC. These two systems are utilized by nearly 30 of the 90 WIC programs nationwide. Although we didn’t create the systems from the ground-up, we maintain the enhancements and software updates for these programs. A WIC MIS system is responsible for capturing data related to the WIC families visit including capturing demographic data, nutritional risk data as well as assigning and issuing food packages. The issued food packages ultimately get communicated to an EBT card and then WIC purchases can be made. Being heavily involved in the WIC EBT industry, it was a natural fit to begin providing WIC MIS services as well.

One of the advantages to having electronic systems, specifically for WIC transactions, is the wealth of data available. It’s possible to track prices and trends and a variety of other things. But that information can sometimes be hard to find.

That’s why we developed Data Direct, which is the data warehouse application we offer. This system provides an extremely powerful business intelligence and reporting tool to our clients. We provide our clients with pre-defined reports that can be displayed in a variety of ways, but our customers can also create ad hoc reports. We view data visualization as one of the next key steps in forward thinking for the ever-evolving WIC and public health industries. This tool is currently provided to all our WIC EBT clients, but we will be opening it up to include WIC MIS data, as well of that of other public health programs in the future.

Along these lines, we are currently partnered with ezEMRx to bring their electronic medical record (EMR) system into the same public health sector. A natural fit!

We are excited about where we’ve been and the things we learned while getting here, and how best we can use them for the next forty years. To learn about our future plans, see Forty Years of Making a Difference: Where We’re Going.