Athena Software Blog
63 Case Management Software Essentials, Part Three
Posted by Neil McDonald on May. 15, 2017

Welcome to part three of our list of 63 case management software essentials! We hope this series will provide you with some useful information as you consider case management software solutions for your human service organization. Click to read part one and part two of the series!

43. ORS / SRS / Client Feedback tools

The Outcome Rating Scale and Session Rating Scale are part of the Feedback Informed Treatment (FIT) and Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS) developed by Dr. Scott Miller. Used by thousands of clinicians around the world, the ORS / SRS forms are available as an add-on module for Penelope.

These tools provide an easy-to-use, client-centered way to measure client progress in treatment, all with just a few clicks on a computer screen or mobile device. Penelope is integrated with the OpenFIT database so that the data you enter on ORS / SRS forms in Penelope is compared anonymously with over 600,000 completed forms worldwide.

In Penelope, this is displayed visually, making client progress clear and easy to read for everyone involved.

44. Google Maps

Your organization may have staff members who work outside of the office, visiting clients in their home or accompanying them to visits in the community. Determining the best route to get there will save time and expense - that’s why Penelope includes a Google Maps link next to each client or Blue Book entry’s address.

This way, staff can get directions and plot the best route to their destination without leaving Penelope, all in a single click!

45. Agency Logo

Though one of the reasons for purchasing case management software like Penelope might be to reduce your organization’s use of paper, it’s likely that you will still have to print things from the system from time to time, e.g. receipts, blank documents, reports, etc.

This is of course possible in most systems, though Penelope allows you to upload your organization’s logo into the system and this appears on any documentation that you print out, whether it’s an invoice for a client, or a letter for a referral. In fact, in Penelope, the logo is what you click on to print!

46. Task Management

Oh, the to-do list. We all have one and, no matter how hard we work, it never seems to be cleared completely. If your staff manages their to-do lists on pieces of paper and sticky notes, then you’ll know how messy that can get, and how such a system can be rife with missed deadlines and forgotten assignments.

Ideally, your case management system will have a method for organization-wide task management that's better than simply an electronic version of all those individual post-it notes scattered around everyone’s desk.

Look for software that has a built-in task / workflow feature that allows staff members to easily access, close, update or pick up tasks, and that also gives supervisors oversight of each task’s progress toward completion.

Person writing to do list

47. Configurable and Flexible

One of the primary assets of any useful case management software system is configurability - the needs of each organization are different, and your case management system should be flexible enough to allow you to easily adjust the system to track the information and build the documentation that you need without a lengthy and costly customization process.

Let us put it this way. If your current case management system does not allow you to add, edit or remove questions on a document, or to update a demographic drop-down list, without having to contract the vendor’s software developers to do it for you, then you need to look for a new case management system!

48. Demographic Tracking

Speaking of demographics, being able to track them is critical to your ability to provide reports to funding sources and other stakeholders each year (not to mention for internal purposes, e.g. marketing, etc.).

Hopefully your case management system does not limit the amount of demographics you can track, and hopefully it does not limit the way in which you can track them, e.g. you’re only allowed X number of drop-down lists, etc. Look for a system that will give you the power to track an unlimited number of demographics in a flexible, sustainable way.

49. Spell Check

Hey, nobody’s perfect - we all make mistakes every now and then. Yes, even you! And spelling mistakes are an inevitability when your staff are filling out documentation and entering notes frequently every day.

However, as we all know, spelling mistakes on official documentation (especially documentation that may end up being subpoenaed) is never a good look.

That’s why you should find case management software with a built-in spellchecker, ideally one that offers spellcheck in different languages, or even different English ‘styles’ (e.g. American English, Australian English, etc.) in order to catch region-specific spellings.

50. Unlimited Contact Information

There are many ways to contact your clients - home phone, cell phone, email, work phone, etc. Not to mention other phone numbers or contact information that may be necessary for any number of reasons.

For this reason, your case management software should have the capability to store an unlimited number of contact types for your clients, with each in its own separate data field (i.e. not all thrown together in a notes field). Unlimited contact types (including address, by the way) also allows you to store historical contact data about your clients as well, rather than overwriting fields if your client has new information.

Woman at office desk with smartphone

51. Collateral Contacts

In addition to unlimited contact types, your software should also have the ability to store unlimited collateral contacts for each client. What’s a collateral contact, you might ask? Essentially, this would be anyone associated with your client who will not be a part of the case, or receiving service.

So this could be, for example, an emergency contact or next of kin, parole officer, family doctor, guidance counsellor - basically anyone that your organization might need to contact about the client. Again, there should be no limit on the number of these contacts in the system.

One neat thing about collateral contacts in Penelope is that you can choose to make them ‘public’ - this means they are added to the Blue Book and are available to be added as collateral contacts for other individuals. The advantage to this is that it eliminates re-typing of information or typos, etc. when adding, say, the same family doctor for multiple clients in the system. (also, if you're not sure what the Blue Book is, see #59!)

52. SaaS

Also known as the cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS) refers to the situation where your case management software system (and of course the client data it includes) is hosted on servers run by the vendor.

Hopefully, any case management software vendor you’re investigating offers a SaaS option, because the benefits to your organization are plentiful. We detail many of them here, but essentially this is a safer and less expensive option when all things are considered, and because it removes significant headaches for your organization in terms of worrying about disaster recovery, system uptime, risk mitigation, data security, unauthorized access, and so much more.

With SaaS, the vendor (in this case, us!) takes care of all that for you, at a very reasonable price :)

53. ISO Certified

And now that we’ve brought up the extremely important subject of data security, do you know if your case management software vendor is ISO 27001 certified? If they are, that’s a good indicator of the seriousness with which they take the security of the data of your clients.

ISO is the International Organization for Standardization and ISO 27001 is an industry standard of requirements for an information security management system (ISMS). If your case management software vendor is ISO 27001 certified, then you can rest assured that they have been through a rigorous, independent audit of their internal information security and risk management policies.

54. Multiple Sites

Many of our clients operate out of multiple locations (or ‘sites,’ as we call them in Penelope). Even if your organization does not have more than one physical location, it could be that your staff actually does provide services outside of the office, whether in a client’s home or elsewhere in the community.

Being able to add multiple locations into the system and to associate those locations with the appointments you’re booking in the system (the software you’re using allows scheduling, right?) ensures that your organization can accurately represent how and where you are providing service.

55. Duplicate Client Warning

Creating duplicate client records due to user error is a common issue in any client management system, and can often lead to problems with respect to a client’s information and service history being scattered throughout the system with no way to easily merge the records.

And, rather than having to merge duplicate records after the fact, wouldn’t it be better if there was a way to prevent the duplicate being created in the first place? Penelope includes a duplicate client warning that appears whenever a staff member is creating a new client record where some of the key demographic information being entered matches a record already in the system.

This way, the staff member can double-check that they are creating a record for a unique person prior to hitting save and creating a problem that’s going to be difficult to remedy in the future.

56. Recurring Appointments

We talked about scheduling in Case Management Software Essentials Part One (in fact, it was the very first essential on the list!), so we’ll assume that you know how important a part of any case management system this is.

It’s also important that, as well as booking an appointment, your staff will need the ability to book recurring appointments as necessary. These could be to book 6 appointments with a client (or group of clients) weekly, monthly, every second Tuesday, the first Thursday of the month, and so on. This will make life so much easier and save so much time for your scheduling staff, so this one is a must-have!

57. Notes

An important part of any client interaction is the ability to add case notes, whether in a formatted document configured for that purpose, or in a free-form narrative.

In any good case management system for social services, the ability to add notes should be simple and easy to find, and should also have the option to protect its contents, e.g. by locking the note, or by denying access via security classes (see Case Management Software Essential #32 in Part Two), given the highly sensitive information they might contain.

Log and lock case notes with Penelope

58. DSM-V Diagnoses / Presenting Issues

The ability to enter DSM V or ICD-10 diagnoses into your case management system is an essential for behavioral or mental health organizations, and critical for those who have to bill insurance claims in the U.S. So make sure your software includes this component, including the option to track more generic presenting issues that may be useful for service planning, reporting, and so on.

59. Directory of Community Resources

Referrals are a part of virtually any social services organization, whether it’s accepting and tracking referrals from other organizations in the community, or referring clients out to other organizations who provide services that your organization doesn’t.

As such, as mentioned in essentials #21 and #22, it’s an essential component to any case management software worth its salt (always wanted to use that phrase). What would be nice when tracking inbound or outbound referrals, however, would be a configurable directory of community resources to store information on frequent referral sources and destinations to ensure accuracy and efficiency when logging referrals.

We call ours the Blue Book! (and it also stores additional info. on each organization, like address, hours, services offered, and more)

60. Sliding Scale

If you charge clients for the services you offer, it’s likely that you also offer some kind of sliding scale, whereby the fee is reduced according to the client’s income, number of dependents, or a combination of both.

Make sure to ask about this when investigation case management software options, as it’s the kind of detail that might not come up until the deployment, at which point … it’s too late.

61. Adding Multiple People to a Case

The essential so nice, we’re including it twice! This might seem extraneous, but seriously, if you’re going to call yourself case management software for human services, then you need to be able to include multiple people from the same family in the same case, with the option for those case members to be enrolled in service together or separately. See #14 for more of our thoughts on this fundamental matter.

62. Deployment Services

Deployment services, while not technically ‘part’ of a case management software system, are absolutely essential in determining your organization’s success with that system. A good deployment experience, and you will be using the system in the way most advantageous for your agency for years to come. A bad deployment, and you’ll be on the lookout for a new case management software system sooner than you had hoped.

One important thing to note is that, just as no two organizations are exactly the same, there should be no cookie-cutter deployments either. A range of options should be available for a range of budgets, with the level of services provided in accordance with the wishes and makeup of the organization deploying the software.

63. Support

And last but certainly not least, after deployment and ‘go live,’ your organization is going to need support as you roll out the software across your organization. At Athena, we take great pride in our support team providing friendly, timely assistance for any question your staff might have.

We view our clients as partners, and aim to treat them as such in the instances when they reach out to us for help. Accessing support is a simple process here, and you can be assured of a swift and pleasant response when you do. Penelope includes embedded help links as well, and our help site contains hundreds of how-to articles and tutorials.

Well, there you have it - 63 things to look for when evaluating a case management software solution for your social services agency. We hope you found it useful - if you'd like to evaluate Penelope (which ... spoiler alert ... contains all 63 essential features mentioned in this article!), click the button below and fill out the form to request a free demo of our software for your organization. We look forward to hearing from you!

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