Case managers are the central hub in most human services agencies and nonprofits. They provide a critical point of contact, connecting their clients with dozens of service providers. Case managers work to coordinate an individualized set of services within an evidence-based practice model.
Just about every agency or organization providing case management services has some type of case management information system, but not every organization uses their system to truly support exceptional case management services. Even those with a robust system in place* may not* be getting the most bang for their buck.
So, let’s take a moment to make sure you’re getting the most out of your case management.
If you are investing in a case management information system, you want to be sure you have 100% buy in. Check out our guide to learn the top 3 things that will make you executive team say “Yes!”
Evidence-based practice (EBP), according to the Social Work Policy Institute, is a process in which the practitioner combines well-researched interventions with clinical experience and ethics as well as client preferences and culture to guide and inform the delivery of treatments and services. Most human service sectors—be it education, healthcare, or employment services—have developed at least a handful of evidence-based practice models. These models guide case management activities to optimize service delivery and improve outcomes.
Often times, evidence-based practice models will need the support of a customizable case management information system to help track key performance metrics and ensure the fidelity of program implementation. As you work to become a truly evidence-based organization, your case management information system provides critical infrastructure that supports your ongoing organizational development and program improvement efforts.
Far too many human services agencies and nonprofits cobble together several information systems to facilitate case management, track metrics and outcomes data, analyze that data, implement data-driven improvements, and prepare reports for funders and other stakeholders. Using several systems usually requires organizations to allocate more resources for IT support, makes it difficult to organize data to discover insights, and can increase staff time spent on data entry.
A strong case management information system, like Apricot for Case Management or ETO, provides a single system for case management, data collection, and reporting. That means spending a lot less time on data entry, management, analysis, and reporting. When data systems are integrated, you don’t just reduce the amount of duplicated efforts. Nothing falls through the cracks because everything from initial applications and initiatives to progress reporting and outcomes is captured in one place.
More accurate and consistent data collection means more accurate and complete reports. When quantitative data collection is streamlined and automated, it also frees up time and resources for capturing qualitative data like stories. The quantitative data can point you towards stories you may not have noticed instinctively. And, of course, data can provide evidence for the understandings and conclusions that emerge from those stories. Ultimately, better data collection and reporting means gaining a much deeper understanding of your program activities and outcomes.
Seeing the forest through the trees can be challenging when you’re deep in the middle of case management for dozens of clients. Often, clients connect with case managers in the midst of personal or family crisis. Addressing emergent needs, coordinating services with long waiting lists, and adapting service plans to changing circumstances can pull the focus away from long-term outcomes.
Implementing a case management information system that is specifically built to connect your programmatic efforts to long-term outcomes ensures that both the trees and the forest can easily be seen at any given moment. As case managers conduct their daily activities, an outcomes-based case management information system ensures that they are asking the right questions and connecting clients with the right services at the right time to optimize outcomes.
If you have recently upgraded your case management system, you may not have access to historical data. Often the focus with a new system will be on making sure current client files are up-to-date. Entering old data by hand can take enormous amounts of time and resources. But, if you’re using a system like Apricot for Case Management or ETO, integrating old data takes little more than a click of the mouse.
The ability to instantly upload and integrate historical data can dramatically improve the impact of your case management information system. Historical data allows you to see a long-term view of program performance and outcomes. It allows you to see more complex trends and patterns in the way case managers and other program staff provide services. And, it gives you a much more nuanced view of how case management and program activities connect to key metrics and outcomes. Finally, having such high-resolution data means having a lot more information to help communicate your successes to funders and other key stakeholders.
Every nonprofit or agency runs reports on a somewhat regular schedule. Usually, that schedule correlates strongly with reporting requirements for funders, policymakers, and other influential stakeholders. But, if you’re not regularly encouraging case managers to access real-time, incremental reporting on individual clients and target populations, you’re not making the most of your case management information systems.
Up-to-date, incremental reporting is a powerful tool in the hands of well-trained case managers. It allows them to contextualize the daily ups and downs within a bigger picture of progress and development. Incremental reports help clients see their own progress and provide much-needed encouragement and hope. They also allow case managers to anticipate challenges, respond better to unexpected challenges, and make critical adjustments in service plans as they are implemented.
Social Solutions is here to ensure you are getting the most out of your case management information system. Whether you’re a nonprofit using Apricot or a large agency already leveraging the power of ETO software, we want to make sure you’re taking advantage of everything your case management system can offer. So, let us know what more we can do to support your efforts!