Creating a Case Management Database: 3 Simple Steps
Data powers the decisions that human services agencies make and helps them provide clients with the best experience possible. Client data can also help caseworkers better manage their workloads and make appointments with clients more efficient, allowing them to get the care they need. More broadly, a comprehensive database allows agencies to visualize important patterns in case data, save time, and serve more clients.
Once your agency has the data it needs, whether from data appending services or through conversations with clients, ensure that it’s accessible, organized, and comprehensive. That way, your agency’s caseworkers can easily reference information about specific cases, add new records, and modify existing ones without needing to sort through data housed on spreadsheets or across multiple platforms.
The best way to organize client data is to invest in case management software. This software can help you streamline your data management process, recording all client data in one program rather than juggling several different spreadsheets or platforms. To get started, it’s important to understand what to look for in a case management solution.
Step 1: Invest in case management software.
Case management software gives your agency one centralized platform to track important client data in. This data can include contact information, billing details, history with your organization, appointment scheduling, specific case notes, and communication preferences.
Outdated data entry and storage methods can cause heavy administrative burdens, staff burnout, and inefficient reporting that could lead to loss of funding to critically important programs. To remedy or prevent this, agencies should choose software that limits the strain on their staff and makes their programs more efficient.
As you look for case management software for your agency, make sure the options you consider have these essential offerings:
- Progress tracking. Choose software that has a dashboard reporting feature to quickly track and visualize your agency’s progress. This can help keep your staff on the same page about their individual responsibilities, your agency’s overall performance, and how close you are to meeting goals.
- A modern approach. Case management software should help you modernize your approach to client data. Look for a program that consolidates client data into one streamlined platform and moves away from clunky, difficult-to-use spreadsheets.
- Access from multiple devices. Depending on who you serve, your caseworkers may need to work from the field to adequately serve clients. The software you choose should allow staff to take notes from their mobile devices so they can update records from anywhere.
Aside from these core considerations, your agency might also need more specific capabilities that are tailored to the services you provide. Disability services, for instance, may require more stringent privacy protections than workforce development programs. By equipping your caseworkers with easy access to the tools and knowledge they need to serve, you can make their lives easier and provide better client experiences.
Step 2: Keep data clean.
To keep your data clean, your agency must commit to practicing good data hygiene. Data hygiene refers to the procedures and processes an organization should regularly complete, ensuring that client data remains relevant, up-to-date, and free of errors and duplications. For human services, maintaining clean data is key to keeping up with clients’ changing needs, giving them personalized and effective care, and producing accurate reports that reflect your program’s impact.
Keeping your data clean is dependent on your staff regularly completing small tasks that limit how many errors or “dirty” data points are in your database. Consider incorporating these practices into your data management protocols:
- Removing or clarifying ambiguous data.
- Frequently looking for and deleting duplicate records.
- Correcting misplaced data, like adding a client’s contact information to the wrong file.
- Identifying and filling in missing data.
Database software can help to limit input errors and even catch duplicate and missing data for you, reducing the amount of time your caseworkers spend tracking down these errors manually. Then, your staff can get back to serving clients and extending your agency’s impact.
Step 3: Standardize the process.
By using case management software, your agency can prevent many of the data input errors associated with outdated methods like spreadsheets.
But because it’s unlikely that just one person will be entering client data into your database, human error can still result in inaccuracies that interfere with reporting down the line. An important part of data management is to train your staff to input data in a standardized format that reduces the likelihood of these errors happening.
These practices can help you standardize the data entry process and ensure that all of your information remains accurate and clean:
- Standard formatting. Maintaining the same formatting across all case files is key for data points like names, contact information, dates, and times. By entering an address with the wrong formatting, follow-up documents and other important records may not get delivered to your client. To prevent inconsistencies, you may decide that each address should be formatted using abbreviations like “St.” rather than spelling out “street.”
- Outline a self-editing process. Create and share guidelines for your staff to ensure that they check for any typos or other errors they might make during data entry. Consider making a helpful checklist they can reference to make sure they review each field before adding the data to the database.
- Reference existing data before adding new records. Write detailed instructions to help staff search for potential duplicate records before creating a brand new one. In some cases, your clients may go long periods of time without visiting, and it’s important to keep all relevant records and history with your agency in one profile rather than unintentionally creating multiple.
Training staff in data entry best practices can help prevent mistakes that could cause misunderstandings both with other staff members and your clients. Maintaining clear communication with clients prevents lapses in care and leads to positive outcomes.
Not only does a well-organized database help make life easier for caseworkers and give clients better experiences, but it also helps caseworkers build deeper relationships with clients. With a robust case management database, they can reference demographic data, jot down important personal details, and follow up through their preferred contact method much more easily. A structured, accurate database allows your agency to connect and serve clients more efficiently, helping you expand your impact to others in your community.