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A Guide To Case Management Models

by Trevor Norkey 1 min read

Case Management Models: A Comprehensive Guide

As a case manager, you'll encounter clients and cases requiring particular approaches to guarantee quality care. While every case and treatment plan is different, most types of case management models fall into four categories:

  • Brokerage models
  • Intensive models
  • Clinical models
  • Strength-based models

Which approach you adopt will usually depend on your organization, client, goals, qualifications, and resources. However, even if you only plan to stick to one model, it's crucial to understand the different approaches in the human services sectors. Continue reading to learn about case management models and their most effective uses. 

The Importance of Choosing the Right Model for Your Organization

The types of case management models differ in their implementation, goals, practices, and workload. Each model suits clients in unique ways, so it's essential to understand each model's capabilities and limitations before implementing your plan of care.

Many social work teams utilize specific models, such as clinical case management for medical facilities, whereas other social workers determine their approach based on each client's needs. In some situations, you can integrate different processes for more dynamic case management. For instance, a care provider using an intensive case management model may integrate strengths-based practices for better results.

Key Case Management Models and Their Applications

Though different treatment plans may adopt unique or hybrid approaches, there are generally four types of case management models to be aware of. Brokerage models have the most hands-off style, and intensive and strengths-based models are significantly more personalized to the client. 

Brokerage Model

As the name implies, brokerage case managers serve as "brokers" between clients and their available resources. Cases following the brokerage model are often the shortest because they generally only involve connecting clients with appropriate services.

The difficulty of these cases usually depends on the client's particular needs and the case manager's network. Most social workers who use this model won't have to establish full treatment plans. However, they may still spend extensive time finding and setting up the right medical or community services for their clients.

For example, the brokerage model is useful for many substance use cases. During intake, case managers will initially meet with clients to identify their needs and goals. From there, they'll find the appropriate supportive services, considering medical, community, and online resources. Once the service referrals are complete, the case manager supervises the ongoing support and steps in as needed.

Brokerage models may also apply to the following case types:

  • Disability or impairment 
  • Chronic illness
  • Aging
  • Occupational and employment assistance
  • Housing assistance
  • Public welfare

Intensive Case Management

In contrast to the brokerage model, the intensive case management model demands a more personal connection between the client and their social worker. In this model, case managers work directly with their clients to gauge the full extent of their needs and provide specialized support throughout their care plan. 

Intensive models are often reserved for clients with significant and ongoing needs related to, for example, chronic pain or trauma. Many cases consist of helping clients socialize more, adjust to being in public, feel safe around people, and overcome other obstacles. Some intensive cases require service referrals to occupational therapy, rehabilitation, and other direct services.

Case types that may require intensive case management include:

  • Developmental disabilities
  • Disability or impairment
  • Chronic illness
  • Crisis intervention
  • Domestic abuse
  • PTSD or social anxiety
  • Aging
  • Ongoing medical needs
  • Substance use
  • Housing assistance
  • Socialization

Clinical Case Management

Like the intensive case model, clinical case management offers a significantly more hands-on approach. However, rather than overseeing a client's full treatment, clinical case managers usually only provide one service in a pre-established care plan, usually within a designated facility. For example, a clinical social worker may be assigned to a hospital patient undergoing long-term treatment. In this situation, the worker would frequently check in on the patient's emotional, mental, and occupational needs.

Clinical cases are often more therapeutic than intensive cases, though each care plan varies according to the client's needs. Case managers usually step into the role of therapist or counselor and recommend educational resources. However, other aspects of treatment are overseen by different health professionals, such as doctors and physical therapists, limiting case managers' capabilities.

Many clinical social workers work within specific organizations, such as schools, hospitals, or correctional facilities, where they can meet directly with their clients. As these roles tend to include unique titles and responsibilities, case managers may need additional training and skills for clinical positions. For example, some high schools and colleges require teaching certificates from counselors. 

That said, clinical cases aren't exclusive to designated facilities. Brokerage case clients may require frequent clinical check-ins as they receive their other services, and some social workers focus solely on clinical community services. Because of this, most social workers should understand the therapeutic practices of clinical case management, regardless of what models they use.

Strengths-Based Model

Strength-based approaches spotlight and encourage clients to build upon their available resources and previous successes. These case models are less focused on correcting shortcomings or finding outside resources. Instead, they're about building upon the client's existing strengths, network, and practices to improve their quality of life, though applications of this model vary drastically.

A basic example of a case requiring a strengths-based model is a client with social fears or anxiety. Assuming the client doesn't require intensive care for a more significant issue, a strengths-based case manager will first establish the client's needs and goals. From here, they'll work with the client one on one and encourage them to practice socializing with people in their network, such as family, friends, and people in their local community.

Using a strengths-based approach, the case manager will highlight where the client is successful in social settings. They may also discuss social drawbacks, including conversations the client couldn't maintain, but the focus is primarily on moving forward. By spotlighting the client's strengths and available resources, the case manager aims to help the client grow more self-confident and independent. 

The strengths-based management model often applies to the following case types:

  • Advocacy
  • Socialization
  • PTSD or social anxiety
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Aging
  • Ongoing medical needs
  • Substance use
  • Policy and planning

Strengths-based practices are increasingly common in effective case management models, including clinical and intensive cases. This is because many clients show better progress when focusing on their strengths rather than being reminded of their weaknesses. 

Factors to Consider When Implementing Case Management Models

There are many variables to consider when determining which case management models to adopt. Although your client's needs and health outcomes should be your first priority, you should also be aware of potential obstacles, limitations, and better alternatives. 

Organizational Readiness

Ensuring both you and your organization are in a place to take on a particular client or management model is crucial for continuity of care. If you realize midway through a care plan that your organization cannot fully meet the client's needs, you may have to transfer or refer them to another care provider. This could impair the client's recovery and damage your reputation.

Before implementing your management model, consider the following organizational factors and limitations:

  • Scheduling conflicts
  • Staff availability and caseloads
  • Commute time
  • Resources
  • Skills and qualifications

Training and Skill Development

It's crucial to recognize when the case managers within your organization lack the training and experience to provide quality care for a client. Clients with more complicated needs often require specialized care coordination from, for instance, a mental health or developmental disabilities social worker.

Not having the proper qualifications doesn't always mean you have to drop or transfer the client. Instead, you can adopt brokerage or intensive case models by referring clients to specialists while covering the rest of their care plan yourself.

Data Management and Tracking

Using analytics and data automation can improve evidence-based case management models and let you provide a unique quality of care. Human services software, such as Casebook, features data reporting functions that automatically compile and deliver client and case information. In doing so, they let you skip multiple steps in the health case management process so you can focus on providing high-quality services. 

Many of these management programs also use real-time case tracking to notify you about every update. This way, you'll always know when paperwork is submitted, insurance is approved, or a task is complete.

These resources let you streamline your services and achieve more in a shorter period of time. This efficiency has allowed many social workers to take on more clients or do more with their current caseloads. Organizations that use management software can take on more intensive case management models than organizations that still file their data manually. 

Simplify Your Cases With a Robust Case Management System

Social work is a multifaceted process with varying resources, client needs, and case management models. Sticking to just one approach could limit the quality of care you provide, so it's crucial for case managers to explore different practices and technical resources.

Human services software won't just help you streamline your productivity — the programs' progress tracking can also help you fine-tune your case management skills. Request a demo from Casebook to learn more. 

Discover the Transformative Power Casebook Can Provide to Your Organization

Trevor Norkey