Human services caseworkers are constantly exchanging information with people outside the agency, yet historically have lacked the right tools to support the process. We built our secure portal, Traverse® Connect, to solve agencies’ collaboration and client engagement problems—and here’s why.
The Challenge: Manual Collaboration Processes Leave Room for Error
Consider these three specific tasks that are key to collaboration, yet tedious and error prone without the right tools:
Workers need clients and providers to complete and sign forms. With current system limitations, the process is clunky when anyone outside the agency is involved. Best case scenario is everyone is present to sign or finalize the form together, which has become increasingly difficult as more work is completed virtually. When that’s not an option, the worker sends a partially completed form to the provider or client for a signature and then uploads or scans into the system the version they get back, which creates multiple copies.
Workers are required to share items from the case file with clients and providers. They often download the items to email, but that’s not always secure and workers may find themselves locating and resending content repeatedly. Even using a file sharing service causes additional friction and duplicate copies of files. There’s also risk of lost documents on the receiving end based on the external organization’s systems.
Workers request documents and information from clients and providers for the case file. Today, workers collect this paperwork in person or request it to be texted, emailed, faxed or mailed back to upload or scan into the system. Someone must make sure the document ends up in the right case file, is categorized correctly and the assigned worker knows it exists. If this process takes too long, clients may have to provide the same documentation multiple times, which causes confusion and frustration.
We dive deeper into the limitations of current systems for collaboration in the latest issue of the American Public Human Services Association’s (APHSA) Policy & Practice. Our article, “Breaking Down Barriers: How Agencies Are Connecting Caseworkers, Clients, and Providers” explores how manual processes create confusion and frustration between caseworkers, clients, and providers.
We discuss how collaboration and engagement tools that aren’t purpose-built for human services workers create barriers to inviting clients and providers to participate in the case planning process, which inadvertently deepens the divide between everyone involved.
Breaking Down Barriers: How Agencies Are
Connecting Caseworkers, Clients, and Providers
The Solution: Empower Clients and Providers to Participate with Caseworkers in the Case Planning Process
Technology is available to help reduce friction and facilitate smoother collaboration and engagement between programs and people, both inside and outside of the agency. In fact, that’s exactly what Traverse Connect is designed to do.
Traverse Connect is a secure portal built for clients, providers, and anyone outside of the agency that has a stake in the case. It simplifies collaboration and significantly reduces the time it takes to exchange information. This tool is the next step in our ongoing effort to remove barriers and inefficiencies so that caseworkers can focus on planning and providing the right care for the people they serve. It not only improves engagement, but also takes some of the onus off workers, which is especially helpful during high turnover and workforce shortages.
Through Traverse Connect, workers share specific documents and request signatures on forms. External collaborators then use any device, wherever they are, to create a secure account so they can securely view shared documents, sign forms, and upload case content. No in-person visit or interaction is required, which accelerates workers’ ability to connect clients to services.
Traverse Connect is simple, secure, and has an immediate impact on users. Here’s how it helps address the challenges mentioned above:
Workers send forms to clients or providers to complete and sign within Traverse Connect in minutes and from anywhere. This eliminates the previous need to download and save multiple versions and allows workers to obtain critical information or begin services for their clients as soon as possible.
Caseworkers can share a portion of the case file with providers or clients that can be accessed on any device without compromising confidentiality. The collaborator has a secure account with access to only the information that has been shared by the caseworker, nothing more. The worker can also see if the client has viewed the documentation in question, which helps them drive more productive conversations.
Collaborators can upload content. All information is added to the electronic case file for easy retrieval by the worker, which minimizes unnecessary steps in the process. The content is context-aware (knows which case and person it belongs to) and is immediately available to use when making decisions.
The tool can help streamline all sorts of important, yet time-consuming tasks, like:
- Completing releases of information with parents to obtain medical records from doctors
- Allowing therapists to securely submit behavioral health reports or progress reports to be added to the case file
- Completing licensing agreements with prospective foster parents
- Collaborating on case plans, safety plans, or referrals for services (and routing the documents to the pertinent parties in real time)
- Sharing court reports
- Sharing summaries with participants after a family team meeting
- Collecting grade cards or individualized education plans from parents to demonstrate that case plans are being followed
- Submitting an application for a daycare center to approve and return or collecting attendance reports once a child starts going
- Empowering cross-county collaboration or information sharing between multiple program areas
- Giving auditors secure access to the specific case files and content they need
Traverse Connect in Action: Carver County Health & Human Services
Rachel Rosckes, a social work case manager with Carver County Health & Human Services in Minnesota, uses Traverse Connect to streamline how she completes annual documentation. She sends required documents and forms to families to sign, and then collects the finalized versions back—all through the portal. Since the final forms are automatically added to the client’s case file, it saves even more time and stress. “It's super easy. Once they do fill it out and send it back, you don't even have to worry about e-filing it, because it's already done for you. You just click finish,” she added.
"What used to take me two weeks with mailing information to a family took me 30 minutes from start to finish." – Rachel Rosckes, Social Work Case Manager, Carver County HHS
Within five minutes, Ashley Stender, a family finding social worker at Carver County HHS, got two forms completed by a relative she needed to place kids. Previously it would have taken an hour at minimum, but most likely days if the relative wasn’t immediately available or lived outside the state. She was then able to route the completed forms to the financial department and another department within the agency that needed them right away, all within the same platform of Traverse. This meant the caregiver could more quickly receive payments, and the children in their care can more quickly receive services.
Tracy Omlie, a case aide, no longer worries that her customers’ services may lapse because their paperwork is delayed. “My stress level about having a late service agreement is gone. I don't have to worry about that anymore because we get the paperwork back,” she said. The added bonus? Tracy says that because workers no longer have to bug families to get their paperwork done, parents have more time to focus on what’s really important—their kids and their family.
Rachel, Ashley, and Tracy are just a few of the workers who shared their success using Traverse Connect. Read the full customer story, "Carver County Cuts Paperwork Processes from Months to Minutes with Northwoods Software," to hear from additional workers and program managers.
Product Marketing Manager Lauren Hirka contributed to this post.