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Best Practices in Virtual Case Management
June 3, 2021
Virtual case management is changing how humanitarian work is done, and it’s important to integrate it well.
Virtual case management (VCM) is bringing about an entirely new way of interacting for case managers and clients. The future of successful case management will hinge on nonprofit and humanitarian organizations’ ability to adapt and create working boundaries and regulations for how VCM will operate on a daily basis. The many tools involved in VCM present fantastic options for communication and collaboration. However, without the foresight to use them with care and a state of awareness, they could potentially inhibit your case managers’ ability to work with their clients. It will be important for each individual organization to determine best practices and establish regulations for virtual case management.
How can your organization ensure the safety and reliability of VCM, building relationships with clients both virtually and in person?
Each organization should begin the process of adapting VCM by carefully examining its caseloads, the case management models it uses, and the needs of its clients. Here are five important factors to consider when building your own VCM system.
Ensure case managers have the correct knowledge and training
The first step to building any kind of VCM system is to ensure that your staff and case managers know how to use the resources and techniques available to them. Do they know how to create, schedule, and host video calls? Can they successfully set up and manage a chat room, or lay out a digital calendar? Do they understand the security and compliance requirements that they’ll have to meet? Every staff member must be given the opportunity to train with these tools so they can work to keep everything running smoothly.
Draw up a document of approved methods, guidelines, and suggested techniques for each case manager and staff member to follow, and then be willing to modify it as necessary according to the needs of your organization. These methods can include instruction on when to use video calls and when to meet with a client in-person, or conversation structures to follow that will help maintain security and confidentiality while in a chat room, or ways to best manage a calendar or set of digital documents. Only your organization can decide what will work best for it.
Ensure that virtual case management adapts to your needs, and learn when it’s most appropriate to use it.
Not every virtual case management technique or tool will work for every situation or even every organization, and it’s important to know this before starting to establish guidelines. Your organization should set up a way to keep track of challenges and successes with virtual case management methods, which will help you improve your workflows and client relations in the future. Since VCM will undoubtedly change the way your organization functions in many areas, it’s important to keep in mind the balance of positives and negatives. Monitoring these factors while using VCM tools will help your staff continue to learn to adjust and adapt to this part of managing their cases.
Virtual case management does have limitations, though, and that’s something your organization must stay aware of. In some circumstances, meeting in a virtual environment won’t match the significance of meeting in person. Also, depending on the form of communication being used, it can be easy to misunderstand the meaning or intention behind a person’s words. So perhaps your organization will need to adopt a way to take notes on or record a conversation to revisit later, and send follow up emails or text messages to confirm discussion topics. Beyond this, since virtual case management is part of the future of nonprofit work, it will be important to learn to recognize when VCM is more appropriate than in person case management and vice versa.
Ensure clients understand boundaries and guidelines
One of the most important and also most challenging aspects of virtual case management is helping clients understand how to navigate a VCM system. Many nonprofit clients have limited access to the resources or education required to navigate certain aspects of virtual communication and digital information management. In many other scenarios, although clients may be familiar with technology, they may not be familiar with how to appropriately engage with it in a case management scenario. The task of teaching them how to virtually interact with your programs or services will often fall to your case managers or anyone who is helping them facilitate the client relationship. This may take time, so it will be important to lead clients through the learning curve step by step, while also doing everything possible to keep the case management process as efficient as possible.
Integrating virtual case management into your workflow will also redefine the boundaries your organization sets with its clients. Since VCM tools enhance the connections between clients and case managers, it will also be important to set new boundaries in order to keep those relationships healthy. Case management can often involve lots of on-call or after-hours work, which means it’s all the more important to set expectations of when and how case managers are to respond to their clients’ needs.
This will be a necessary part of client-centric case management and care in the foreseeable future. Your organization will have to be willing to make mistakes and adapt its workflows and case management models to each client. Doing this and setting the standard and example of appropriate behavior will help your clients feel safe and more comfortable with working their program. The end goal here, as with any case management environment, is to create a stable environment and working relationship through consistent communication.
Ensure security, compliance, and other important operational considerations
There are many ways in which virtual case management can be an asset to your organization, but there are also many ways in which it can make you vulnerable. Electronic information and databases are vulnerable to being compromised through hacking and unauthorized information sharing. In order to avoid these issues, it’s important to set up back-end security standards through your case management software that will help maintain the integrity, safety, and confidentiality of your clients’ information.
Security in VCM includes more than just data encryption and monitoring. It also involves the smart usage of digital and internet-based communication resources by case managers and clients. For example, setting up privacy and safety standards for video conferencing environments can ensure that client information does not leave the virtual room, and any record of the conversation can be stored in an encrypted client file. This is just one example of a technique that can help keep clients safe, and your organization should work to figure out exactly how this needs to be done for its case management scenarios.
Ensure that your case management system is robust and supports VCM functions
Without a robust case management system capable of providing the right resources and security to your organization, virtual case management will not work as it should. It should include efficiency-boosting features, automations, security, and advanced data management all in one. This will help draw together every aspect of VCM functionality into a cohesive, working whole that case managers will find useful and adaptable on a daily basis.
The CaseWorthy Solution
At CaseWorthy, we understand that every nonprofit organization has different needs and standards for working with its clients. All too often, out-of-the-box solutions don’t provide all the necessary resources your case management team requires. That’s why our software is incredibly robust and can be tailored to meet each organization’s unique needs. Our software even includes proprietary technology such as our CommHUB, which is designed specifically for virtual case management. If you’d like to learn more about what we have to offer, contact us today. We’d love to get to know you better!