Improving Service Delivery with Electronic Case Management
Nowhere is the case for electronic case management to be better made than in health and human services. Even in a thriving economy, disadvantaged populations exist and are the most in need. As the economy shrinks in times of crises and unemployment increases, the need for health and human case management services increases. So does the need to document client information and circumstances to ensure clients’ needs are met.
As life expectancy, population, and income disparities increase, so will the need for health and human services, and the demands on service providers. Increased caseloads require solutions beyond paper files and manual notes.
Obstacles to successful case management in health and human services include duplication of efforts and services, fragmentation, and paper. Paper files, manual filing systems, Excel spreadsheets, sticky notes – no searchable abilities in which nothing is easily transferred from one provider of services to another – nothing about the paper element involved in case management is conducive to the ease of sharing data, the elimination of redundancies, or ensuring effective case management for clients.
Keys to successful case management are accessibility of information, elimination of redundancies, and ease of sharing data, all of which are easily accomplished through the automation of manual processes. Many local governmental and human services agencies have paper-based case management systems, or electronic case management systems (ECM) that were developed a decade ago or more. Many of these systems are being held together with super glue and band-aids. The impact on service delivery of such systems includes needy clients falling through the cracks and case managers being stretched thin and unable to provide the much-needed services.
Especially during times of crisis and economic downturns, case managers require tools to help them work remotely with the flexibility of a system that provides flexibility through the use of a laptop computer, tablet, or mobile phone. Surveys indicated that there is no shortage of overworked case managers willing to volunteer their time to participate in a study designed to identify ways in which technology can be harnessed to support their work and their clients.
Electronic Case Management systems (ECM) store client-case information and collaborations in an electronic data storage system, whether cloud-based or otherwise. Cloud-based is preferred to ensure case managers can access their client info anywhere from any device. This ensures better record keeping as all data is organized and managed in one place. Confusing Word documents or Excel spreadsheets can be eliminated, which results in a reduction of paper, and increase organization.
Certainly, in the current lockdown environment, remote access to information has become essential. Data can be securely accessed by authorized users wherever they are. ECMs make it easier to collaborate on a particular case to the benefit of clients. Everyone involved in the resolution of the case can easily access information and work to resolve their clients’ issues more quickly and efficiently. Client risk assessments can be easily performed, and client needs can be easily addressed.
ECMs also improve the reporting process which can be used to evaluate expedite and optimize the resolution of cases.
Measuring Performance and Outcomes
Today, most local governmental health and human services agencies conduct an annual Community Health Assessments, which establishes a health and wellness profile for their community. Data entered in an ECM can be used to determine the health and wellness of a community and to identify priorities for improving health. A pattern of wellness or disease emerges as a community examines one client at a time. Information from community health assessments provide insights into local health and social problems, identifies resources to improve outcomes, and informs policy decision-making.
The move towards performance and outcome measurement is prevalent across the globe, and benefits the populations being served. Case management programs exist so they may have a positive impact on outcomes related to the quality of life, independence, functionality and general well-being of clients. However, measuring outcomes is a multifaceted and complex process. Consequently, not all case management programs measure and quantify their effect on health and social outcomes in their community. Particularly, paper-based and outdated data systems are not conducive to collecting and analyzing health social outcomes.
ECMs provide the best approach to measuring and achieving client outcomes and program goals. They are a powerful tool in capturing client outcomes which can generate a wealth of both qualitative and quantitative data about clients and the services being provided to the benefit of their well-being and the community’s well-being at large.
Ideally, an ECM should allow each individual case management program to define its own measures for determining outcomes as it relates to that program. If the data is captured in the system for individual clients, it can easily be reported on to provide a snapshot of the overall outcome in a community for all clients being case managed.
These measures allow health and human services agencies to assess the effectiveness of their programs and case managers’ work in those programs. It is essential to optimizing case management programs and the care provided by staff. These measures offer insight into program quality and client progress, identify areas for improvement, and increase transparency.
Streamlined to generate consistency in documenting client information, ECMs are a useful tool for reporting on performance and outcomes measures, which benefit clients so that their cases can be closely monitored and well-managed. They are also vital to the support of case managers in their work. Overall, ECMs improve the delivery of services for case managers which ultimately benefits the clients in need.