Case management has been around since the 19th century and has evolved into a broad and complex set of practices used in healthcare, social work, and a myriad of related fields. The Commission for Case Manager Certification’s definition provides a great starting point for understanding the range of case management practices and models:
“Case management is a collaborative process that assesses, plans, implements, coordinates, monitors and evaluates the options and services required to meet the client’s health and human services needs. It is characterized by advocacy, communication, and resource management and promotes quality and cost-effective interventions and outcomes.”
Different contexts call for different approaches to case management. Strong case management practices are carefully adapted to the needs, constraints, and resources that exist within a given context. Adults with physical disabilities may be best served by one set of practices or approaches to case management while those same approaches may be irrelevant or even harmful to children with mental health issues or teens recovering from substance abuse or addiction.
Building a strong case management approach begins by identifying a foundational model that can be adapted to meet the needs of your specific clients and resources. Take a look at 3 unique case management models that can be adapted and customized to drive successful outcomes in a range of case management settings.
The brokerage model is a very brief approach to case management in which case workers attempt to help clients identify their needs and broker supportive services in one or two contacts. This model assumes that a client will voluntarily use needed services once they know they are available, and learn how to access them. This model works best when a client’s biggest challenge is access to services, rather than availability of services.
In a brokerage case management model, the case manager/social worker provides very little direct service to the client. Instead, they serve as a link between a client and community resources. The focus is on assessing needs, planning a service strategy, and connecting clients.
A brokerage model may place less emphasis on monitoring and measuring outcomes. The organization providing case management services in a brokerage case manager model, however, may be able to coordinate data collection and assessment across service providers. One of the best ways to do that is to encourage and advocate for the use of an integrated case management system. When service providers and case managers use integrated systems for assessing needs, tracking services, and measuring outcomes, they can easily capture important information about their coordinated efforts.
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In a clinical case management model, a clinical care provider serves as the case manager. Frequently, the case manager is a counselor or therapist. This model recognizes that many clients face barriers to services that reach beyond simple questions of access.
As a clinician, the case manager in a clinical case management model provides direct counseling for a client’s individual concerns. That might include mental health services, addiction recovery support, or treatment for serious or chronic health conditions. When the case manager is also providing clinical services, they may have unique insight into the client’s needs. That increased level of understanding improves the case manager’s ability to identify needed services and connect the client with formal resources in the form of community service providers.
Perhaps more significantly, clinical care providers have a greater ability to encourage the client to connect with informal resources such as family, friends, and peers. That collaboration can increase the client’s willingness and ability to follow through with services.
The clinical case manager is also well-positioned to help the client address social, emotional, and mental barriers to services. It’s not surprising that a clinical case management model can lead to more successful outcomes for clients who are less likely to engage voluntarily with services. The model is also particularly useful for clients who need support over an extended period of time.
The strengths-based clinical case management model recognizes that the ultimate goal of a case manager goes beyond just accessing services. In a strengths-based clinical case management model, case managers focus on empowering clients and their families. Case management and clinical services focus on creating client opportunities for growth, education, and skill development.
Like a clinical case management model, the strengths-based case management model recognizes the value of community services, family, and cross-agency partnerships. It encourages the client to build and nurture informal support networks alongside identifying and accessing formal community services and institutional resources. However, the strengths-based case management model steps away from the perspective that the clinician is the expert on the client’s needs. It encourages the client to take the lead in identifying their own needs, take control over the search for resources and services to address those needs, and view the community as a resource instead of a barrier to success instead.
Strengths-based clinical case management models involve outreach, clinical services, advocacy, and robust coordination between case managers and clients. Implementing a program based on this model requires that organizations and agencies support case managers with a robust case management system that can track highly individualized services and capture complex data and metrics.
Besides understanding the differences between case management models, you should also understand the tools and infrastructure needed to support case managers. Which case management model your organization uses will likely affect your database and the outcomes you track.
Social Solutions’ ETO and Apricot software support the efforts of organizations using a variety of case management models. ETO and Apricot track a client’s progress through programs so case managers can see what’s working well and what needs improvement. These insights are critical when optimizing a program for outcomes. ETO and Apricot save frontline staff time, make reporting easy, and surface important insight on client progress. All of this ultimately allows case managers to have more impact on their clients.
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