We’ve all had this experience:
You go to your doctor and fill out the forms. Your doc says you need to see the specialist, so (hopefully) you make the appointment, show up, and the first thing you have to do is fill out more forms, asking you for the same information. In your anxious state, you might forget some information, and the person entering the info into the new practice’s system might misread your handwriting when entering the data. The system is inconvenient, error prone, and inefficient.
In the nonprofit world, this happens for all kinds of services, not just for health services. Most agency provides services to clients in a case management model, where an intake process is used to collect information about the client, which helps the agency determine the best services to provide, either directly or through referrals. The agency then tracks the client’s progress, adjust services as appropriate, and hopefully documents the outcome of the client when they no longer need the agency’s services. Of course, funders are very interested in knowing how effective specific programs are, so case management can also help an agency demonstrate how its efforts affect the outcomes.
All of this requires a lot of information to be collected, maintained, and summarized for reports. Many small and midsized nonprofits use Excel spreadsheets and even paper forms to try to track all of this data. While commercial case management systems are available, the price and complexity are beyond the means of smaller agencies.
IT4Causes is working to change that. We’ve formed a Task Force of agencies in and around Richmond to select and deploy a Case Management system that can help not just one agency but several local nonprofits. We’ve gathered requirements, surveyed the market, evaluated many options, and have narrowed the viable field down from dozens of possibilities to a just a couple of the best systems. We’re also exploring options that will allow participating agencies to collaborate and share information appropriately and securely to streamline processes and improve outcomes. We’re looking for more agencies to participate with us, so we can lower the cost per agency while increasing collaborative opportunities to improve outcomes.
We are envisioning a scenario that looks more like this:
A parent working multiple part-time jobs walks into an agency because they are still having trouble paying their bills. The parent completes an online form to document their employment status, income, job skills, number of kids, daycare arrangements, transportation, etc. A caring case manager meets with the client to discuss options, and together they agree that the following services would be helpful:
- More affordable daycare
- Money management classes
- Employment counseling
The case manager knows local programs that can help in these areas, and asks the parent if it’s OK to share their info with those agencies and they agree. The case manager goes into the case management system, finds available time slots at those agencies that fit the client’s busy schedule, and creates appointments. The client goes to the appointments, and is greeted not by more complex forms, but by staff members who already knows their circumstances, and who have already come up with suggestions they can discuss. The staff members make notes in the system, which then go back to the case manager, who is immediately updated on the progress. Soon the case manager can see that the parent has arranged for better daycare, is taking better care of their finances, and has found a better job with the help of the employment services. Of course, the agencies are doing this for many clients, and are using the case management system’s reporting tool to prove the effectiveness of their programs.
If you work or volunteer for an agency that could benefit from this type of system, or if you are an IT professional who would like to help us build a better data ecosystem to help RVA nonprofits provide better services, please let us know by contacting Thomas.Anderson@IT4Causes.org