Beaufort County Department of Social Services (DSS) consistently meets federal mandates for timeliness and accuracy, works more efficiently in NC FAST, and shares client data across program areas.
So how are they doing it?
Integrated electronic case files accessible throughout the agency.
With the inception of North Carolina’s NC FAST case management system, Beaufort County DSS caseworkers shifted from a specialized to a universal worker approach where an intake or triage caseworker can help a client apply for benefits or make basic changes for any program from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to Medicaid to Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIEAP). Without a document management system that shares data across program areas, the client-centric approach would have been impossible.
Caseworkers no longer have to rifle through a stack of paper case files on a desk or scroll through a 100-page pdf of a case file to find a single piece of information. Anyone in the agency (with proper security measures applied to keep confidential information safe) can access the case file and key client information with the click of a few buttons.
In addition, adult services and child welfare social workers can access data traditionally “owned” by income maintenance workers in Medicaid and food and nutrition services. (The reverse view is not case because of the sensitive nature of protective services information, especially abuse reports or adoption records.) The workers can see if children or adults are receiving benefits. Social workers know the household makeup and who is receiving Medicaid.
How does an integrated case file help Beaufort County?
Better Client Service
- Clients can talk to one caseworker to apply for multiple programs, or update information for multiple programs at the same time. Clients receive benefits more quickly.
- Clients don’t have to provide the same information over and over to multiple workers. Clients are less frustrated.
- When clients call with questions, any caseworker, supervisor, or manager can look into the case file and respond right away. Clients trust the agency more and community perception has improved.
"Everything is right there at our fingertips,
"Social work is about working directly with people.
More Complete Social Work
- Social workers better understand the families they are working with so they are doing better quality social work. For example, if a worker knows a child receives Medicaid before moving the child to a foster home, there is no lapse in care. The worker has access to the child’s list of doctors or medical history and can make educated medical referrals more quickly.
- Social workers used to travel back and forth getting forms signed, making copies of documents, and then going into the office to document their work. Because they can access the integrated case file from the office or the field on an iPad, they are working from anywhere: at their desks, in a client’s home, or waiting in court. Getting forms signed electronically on the iPad and taking photos of documents eliminated the back and forth trips, saving social works up to three hours every day that they use to make additional community referrals, drive clients to medical appointments, or make extra home visits.
"I really think the workers feel accomplished.
They are not having to think ‘I’ve got to fill out this form tomorrow’ because it’s already completed."
– Lori Leggett
"In a day, it saves me about 3 hours of my time.”
– Angel Roberts
Foster Care and Treatment Social Worker
Easier and More Efficient Processes
- Caseworkers are processing 90% of the LIEAP applications the same day. It takes 30 minutes, instead of 2-3 day as it did in the past because caseworkers can see existing Medicaid and food and nutrition information during the application process so even if a client forgets some documentation, the caseworker already has it. Imagine the impact on a family of getting heat two days earlier.
- Caseworkers aren’t spending time tracking down information,
which delays the application or re-application process. Documentation is stored electronically and is up to date, so the agency meets requirements for timeliness in service delivery.
- Documents aren’t lost or misplaced in the wrong file,
so the agency meets requirements for accuracy.
- Client information isn’t a burden to update. For example, if a family is receiving SNAP benefits and the dad moves out, the household makeup changes and eligibility for benefits might change. The process is simpler because the caseworker can pull up documents from both households and link them to existing or new cases.
The agency has also seen the following improvements:
- Medicaid and food and nutrition clients move seamlessly through the agency because front desk workers scan documents into the system for immediate access, and then route clients to the next available caseworker using a recipient pool process.
- The same process is used for incoming calls to the switchboard. Clients get service faster and work is equitably distributed among caseworkers.
- Because protective services social workers can use the iPad app to share photos of suspected abuse or poor living conditions with supervisors during a visit, they can make informed, collaborative decisions in the moment to better ensure safety.
Beaufort County Department of Social Services (DSS) consistently meets federal mandates for timeliness and accuracy, works more efficiently in NC FAST, and shares client data across program areas. So how are they doing it?