IN-SIGHT is a nonprofit serving the Rhode Island and border communities whose mission is to inspire confidence and build skills that help people who are visually impaired and blind to succeed and thrive. Founded in 1925, they currently serve over a thousand community members, from toddlers to elderly adults, by offering a wide variety of quality programs, including psychosocial, technology-related, independent living, and recreational services. The agency currently features a fully-equipped radio reading service, training apartment, classrooms, a low vision clinic, and a vision products store.
IN-SIGHT guides and supports people by helping them adapt to living with a visual impairment through a variety of peer support programs, low vision evaluations, assistive technology assessments and training, independent living skills training, a summer youth camp, and a radio reading service.
Prior to upgrading their software, each IN-SIGHT staff member had their own system for tracking data. As a result, updating information sometimes required editing and reconciling data from almost two dozen Excel spreadsheets and Access databases, which was time-consuming and inefficient.
With Apricot, all information is centralized. IN-SIGHT’s staff uses Apricot to easily track clients, volunteers, donors, employees, and timesheets. It has simplified not just updating information but also running reports.
Previously, staff entered appointments in an Apricot form as well as on their Outlook calendar. In addition to doubling the work, it also often caused mistakes. To improve the process, IN-SIGHT linked Apricot with Outlook calendars, automating and creating a more streamlined approach to scheduling.
In the past, most information was on paper, preventing IN-SIGHT from employing blind or visually impaired workers, as it would require hiring another staff member to sit next to their desk all day and read them the files, charts, letters, and mail. But all of that changed with Apricot. “IN-SIGHT is committed to ensuring that everything works with people with visual disabilities. The product has always remained accessible, and that’s a priority for us. The fact that Apricot is compatible with the screen readers and voiceovers has been a huge plus for us,” said Christopher Butler, Executive Director of IN-SIGHT.
Like most agencies, IN-SIGHT felt the effects of the COVID pandemic, most notably in participants’ changed behavior and the number of participants in their various programs. Support groups are one of the areas where IN-SIGHT has seen a decline in attendance. In 2007, 195 people attended support groups, and current enrollment is considerably less. The data on Apricot’s dashboard alerted leadership about the decline in support group participation. Butler said, “I think that’s been the nice thing about the way we’ve set up Apricot – it’s like a flashing red light on your car dashboard – your brake light is flashing, and you go, wait a minute, I’ve got to call the mechanic!” IN-SIGHT did the research, drew conclusions, and made program adjustments to improve participation in this program.
There are many ways in which the features of Apricot have helped IN-SIGHT improve efficiencies, productivity, and quality of work, all while preventing clients from falling through the cracks. Apricot’s capabilities using Dashboard, Schedule, email triggers, and caseload reports all help IN-SIGHT function most effectively.
The Apricot dashboard displays charts and graphs by department. Butler and staff can quickly and easily see a five-year history of the number of client intakes, participants attending training, and services offered. Briefly, they can see benchmarks, trends, and changes over a particular time period, informing decisions and planning.
Email triggers are a favorite feature of IN-SIGHT’s staff. Anytime a new client is added into Apricot, an automated email triggers staff members, notifying them of a new client so that service can be provided or follow-up as a referral. Butler identifies email triggers as organizational help to the entire staff.
Schedule streamlines the scheduling process, making a positive difference in workflow and productivity for IN-SIGHT. For example, the data is entered only one time by staff. Schedule automatically adds the appointment to the calendar of any staff member involved and sends an email confirmation to the client. Post-training report alerts are sent to supervisors. It’s estimated that this saves approximately 33 hours a year of staff time. In addition, it streamlines and tightens up the entire process, helping empower staff to be more productive and reducing opportunities for data entry mistakes.
Caseload reports are especially appreciated by frontline staff tracking individual caseloads. The caseload report form is set up to show four categories: clients waiting for training, active in training, waiting for follow-up, or completed. Once 60 days have passed, and a client is still waiting for contact or training, it prompts Butler, or the program supervisor, to check why. Most of the time, there’s a legitimate reason, but this particular feature has been extremely useful for caseload reports. The data has helped IN-SIGHT to streamline workflows and improve quality. “The way we’ve designed our process in Apricot from the beginning of a new client to the end is that we’ve found a way to put in every single step, and then those triggers let our staff know if there is something that needs to be done, and we see a red flag – it’s becoming harder and harder for things to fall through the cracks,” added Butler.
IN-SIGHT rents out assistive technology equipment, for which there is a waiting list. They have created a report on the dashboard so that when a piece of equipment is returned, it’s very easy to refer to the next person on the waiting list, which streamlines and accelerates the process, helping both staff and their clients. The low vision clinic uses Apricot forms and reports to increase their administrative efficiency. Letters sent to referring providers and information sent to the billing service are generated through Apricot forms and reports, greatly increasing efficiency.
Client satisfaction surveys are integrated within Apricot, and a report is generated that shows the responses, enabling them to track changes in clients’ satisfaction levels. IN-SIGHT also tracks program attendance, which is displayed on Apricot’s dashboard, showing if goals are being met individually as well as globally.
Apricot is compatible with accessibility platforms such as screen readers and voiceover programs. IN-SIGHT’s staff members who are blind or visually impaired can use Apricot to do the exact same things their sighted colleagues do, such as read and write case notes, complete forms, and run reports – every single part of the workflow is accessible to them.
According to Butler, the fact that Apricot has always prioritized being completely accessible to their blind and visually impaired employees, allowing them to be just as productive and have just as much access to information as everybody else, has made a significant difference. This, in turn, translates into confidence that IN-SIGHT’s clients will be able to utilize Apricot in the future with intake and other forms. “That’s ultimately what we want,” said Butler. “With other agencies like ours around the country, whenever this topic comes up about agencies using other software products to track data, I’m always the number one cheerleader for Apricot, mostly because of this experience.”
Reports generated from their data help them understand information, trends, and how to improve programming. For example, IN-SIGHT analyzed monthly reports for the last five years regarding the number of intakes, low vision visits, and other activities. After inquiring current clients about what they would have liked to learn when they first began at IN-SIGHT, the agency created reports helping them analyze critical data. This allowed them to build into new programs exactly what clients were requesting, including training, assistive technology, skills, and support group topics. As a result, IN-SIGHT will launch an intensive, 16-hour boot camp for clients who are new to vision loss.
During the pandemic, IN-SIGHT’s clients requested an open-topic, classic support group, which has continued in person for over a year. Attendance has been exceptional, as opposed to the more topic-specific community support groups attracting significantly fewer people. On the dashboard report, IN-SIGHT can view the attendance at each support group. With the obvious success of the open-topic group, they are changing their community groups to follow the same format, opening them up to family members as well.
The ability to capture and analyze data, make changes, and track the progress of those changes through Apricot is a major catalyst for improved service delivery at IN-SIGHT.
IN-SIGHT’s annual reports are much more significant now because of the quality of data that Apricot can provide. Because all the data is in one place, IN-SIGHT can synthesize all information into a simple, easy-to-read, graphical, visual report. Board members prefer this type of information because it tells the impact story very quickly.
“Having the data has made a huge difference with grants for IN-SIGHT,” said Butler. The agency has experienced an approximate 20% increase in funding due to being able to tell a better impact story as a result of Apricot reporting.
IN-SIGHT is using Schedule to create a new training form that will enable ease in tracking appointments and training. It has gone through extensive testing to ensure it can be used by all staff and will work well with screen readers. They plan to officially launch the new training form soon.
They also plan to use Connect, an Apricot feature that enables participant engagement through a portal, making it easy and efficient to communicate with participants and saving administrative time. For example, through a QR code on their outreach materials, participants complete an intake form in the Connect portal, eliminating staff from taking information over the phone or writing it down at an event.
In addition, staff will use Connect to send client satisfaction surveys. Presently IN-SIGHT uses third-party platforms to collect the data, which is then inputted by staff into Apricot. Once they transition to Connect, participants will answer the survey directly within Connect, saving staff time by reducing data entry and eliminating the possibility of transcription errors.
Finally, IN-SIGHT plans to use Connect to enable participants to sign up for training and workshops directly in Apricot.
IN-SIGHT uses Apricot for everything. It helps them increase efficiencies, increase funding, improve service delivery, and support them to grow effectively and efficiently. And Apricot’s commitment to compatibility with blind and visually impaired staff applications has solidified IN-SIGHT’s confidence that Apricot will continue to deliver the best results for their agency and their clients now and in the future.
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