Evidence-Based Practices for Case Management: Why Your Nonprofit Should be Using Them
Over the years, evidence-based practices for case management have become an integral part of the social services sector and how they maximize service delivery. Funders across the country, and particularly in government agencies, now heavily favor the use of these practices. Let’s take a quick look at the three main reasons your nonprofit should be using evidence-based practices for case management.
“The conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of the individual patient. It means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research.” Definition of Evidence-Based Practice from Dr. David Sackett, 1996
As evidence-based practices for case management become more common, funders are increasingly requiring organizations to use them to secure funding. In particular, public sector agencies of the U.S. government now have elaborate requirements that often mandate collecting evidence and demonstrating how that evidence is being used to improve the quality of their programs. If for no other reason than continued funding, it is important for social service organizations to assess how they are currently using evidence and whether there are more opportunities for them to embrace this new trend.
At first, it might not seem obvious how practices from a medical doctor apply to social services. Especially when a doctor’s service is perceived as more prescriptive than a nonprofit organization’s. But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t applicable or important learnings to be applied to the social services sectors, in particular child and family services.
“What constitutes “current best evidence” will necessarily be different than it is in the medical field. Thus, the child and family services field has been somewhat flexible in defining what should constitute an evidence base. This flexibility is reflected in an increasing number of definitions of what constitutes an EBP, leading to some ambiguity and debate around the meaning of “best evidence” in this context. [14-15] At the same time, the EBP movement in medicine has influenced the field of child and family services by setting a high standard for the quality of research evidence and, in that way, encouraging more rigorous research. “
That is to say, the best evidence between medicine and social services will certainly vary, but the initiative of seeking out the current best evidence that applies to your field will be the most impactful. Rather than stagnating in a “this is how it’s always been done,” mindset, programs need to evolve and constantly question the best way to serve constituents. The best way to do that is to equip yourself with the most recent and impactful primary and secondary research.
In the past, we’ve highlighted how technology is the catalyst for enabling evidence-based practices for case management. Are your current systems enabling you to collect, analyze, and report on your program performance? Successfully implementing evidence-based practices requires having the right tools, including robust case and outcomes management systems for integrated data collection and analysis. That’s why Apricot is designed with evidence-based practices in mind. Hopefully, these examples will inspire your continued efforts to integrate evidence-based practices into your own programs as you work to improve the lives of the people in the communities you serve.