Client transfers are an unfortunate yet generally unavoidable aspect of social work caseloads that, when mishandled, can undermine client engagement, progress, and results. Transfers are caused by various reasons, from staff turnover to the provider's capabilities. Whatever the cause, it's up to the newly assigned provider to ensure the client is still prioritized and meets their goals.
Technology such as case management software eases the transition for clients and social workers by automatically transferring case information, limiting administrative tasks, and improving communication. Which software your organization uses and how you implement it can significantly improve your efficiency and reputation, especially when dealing with complicated transfers.
Rebuild Client Engagement
One of the most tedious aspects of case transfers is that the new provider must restart the engagement process, regardless of how far the client and previous case worker were into implementation. Like with standard intakes, the new provider should take this time to set a strong foundation for the objectives they will achieve together. For the best results, case workers should consider their own goals in addition to those of the clients and the previous providers, if applicable.
Throughout the repeated intake process, case workers should prioritize that their clients actually feel engaged. Transferred clients may feel unmotivated and not prioritize your implementation plan the second time around, especially if they have to repeat previous steps. To help with this, providers should ensure clients feel like they're prioritized, such as by taking time to listen to their frustrations and reflecting on why their case was transferred, to begin with.
Reasons for Client Transfers
Client cases can be transferred between case workers, departments, and organizations for numerous reasons. However, transfers should primarily be determined by imposing factors such as a case worker's skills, experience, and specialty or a client's locality and needs. For example, some clients may require a mental health-focused assessment from a clinical social worker rather than the provider currently assigned to their case.
Other factors that contribute to case transfers include:
- Staff turnover
- Worker capacity
- Scheduling conflicts
- Client or worker health concerns
- Client or worker safety concerns
- The client requests another social worker or organization
There are notably also many reasons why some cases should not be transferred, either to meet legal requirements or for the client's well-being. Examples include:
- Client health concerns
- Unresolved jurisdictional and dispositional hearing
- Status review hearings
- Detention hearings with filed petitions
- Interim review hearings, such as adoption and placement reviews
- The client will not work with another social worker or organization
Downfalls of Restarting the Client Engagement Process
Transfers can be unexpected and stressful experiences for clients that could impact their view of your organization and their aspirations to achieve their goals. So, while the case worker assigned to the transferred client may also feel overwhelmed, it's crucial for them to provide top-notch care for the client's sake and your organization's brand and reputation.
To understand how this negatively impacts clients, consider a time you were transferred on the phone regarding a customer service issue. While some organizations intentionally relay essential information to other departments before transferring you, many expect you to re-explain your situation as if you had just started the phone call. These situations can be stressful, leave you feeling deprioritized, and result in some information being skipped or only explained to one party.
Reassigned clients and newly assigned case workers may miss important details, misinterpret goals, and run into other miscommunications. In some cases, a client may even attempt to mislead the new case worker about the original provider's assessment and implementation plan. Therefore, it's critical for the organization to thoroughly retain case management notes to ensure no details are missed, miscommunicated, or misrepresented.
Making Case Shifts Easier for Clients
In an ideal world, clients shouldn't be impacted at all by case reassignments and other changes. Unfortunately, that's not always an option due to how personal and unique human service cases are. The newly assigned provider must fully gauge their client's situation, problems, emotions, and everything else that goes into their case, much of which can't be summarized in intake reports.
Fortunately, there are many steps case workers can take to ease the transition while also ensuring no missed information. Examples include:
- Asking reassigned clients to complete digital forms
- Allowing reassigned clients to schedule appointments on their own time
- Discussing implementation plans, intake details, and client concerns with previous case workers
- Revising intake and engagement plans to ensure they add something new for the client
- Thoroughly reviewing client information and histories using case management software
Another way to ease transitions is by planning for the unexpected. When you intake a new client, include as many important details in their notes as possible, and don't leave anything up to memory. This way, should the case be transferred for any reason, the next case worker can easily pick up where you left off without missing anything.
Person-Centered Case Files
When social workers receive a transferred case, their priority should be easing the transition on the client and ensuring they still receive an equal or higher level of care as they would have with the previous provider. After all, it's really the client being transferred to them — not just the workload. As such, the case notes new providers use and create should be centered around the client and their needs rather than the case itself.
What's Important to the Client?
When working with clients, social workers must remember that every individual is different. Additionally, the notes and conclusions a previous provider made may differ from what the client needs and feels. So, it's crucial for social workers to be empathetic when listening to their transferred clients to recognize what is important to them specifically.
When working with new or transferred clients, social workers should consider their:
- Spoken and unspoken needs
- Intellectual, emotional, and physical abilities
- Intellectual, emotional, and physical limitations
- Risks and benefits of particular services and strategies
- Feelings and boundaries regarding their current situation
By paying attention and making a transferred client feel heard, providers can keep them engaged throughout the entire social work process. Additionally, prioritizing empathy ensures the experience is equal to or better than the care they would have received before the transfer.
Maintain Continuity Through Case Notes
As mentioned earlier, the best way to maintain continuity for clients' cases is to be as thorough and detailed with notes as possible. Endless scenarios could unexpectedly remove you from the case, such as illness, scheduling conflicts, or another case worker being a better fit. Regardless of unexpected circumstances, the client should still receive high-level care that doesn't skip over any details.
Preparing Notes for Social Work Case Changes
Whether in the intake process or at the implementation stage, providers should take comprehensive notes of all client conversations, observations, and concerns. Case workers within your organization should write every note as if it were being passed to someone else, emphasizing specific details, risks, and future steps.
Another aspect of preparing client cases for unexpected transfers is ensuring all notes are in one place. Case management software such as Casebook makes it easy for providers to compile all of a client's notes, goals, and personal details without the hassles of double-entering. This way, should a client need to be transferred between providers or organizations, the administration can simply swap access permissions rather than making the previous provider transfer multiple emails and documents individually.
Ensure Fast Contact
Fast turnaround time is another crucial aspect of case transfers, both to keep the client engaged and to ensure they receive the help they need as promptly as possible. Transfers will inevitably cause delays in the client's goals and implementation. While this is unfair to the client, the situation may be essential to ensure they receive care from the right provider. Fortunately, many delays can be avoided with proper work practices and a dependable case management system.
Casebook's automation and improved client tracking speed up the intake, engagement, and assessment processes by allowing clients to complete digital forms as soon as they become available. Additionally, case progress notifications ensure providers can move to the next step as soon as the previous step is completed, making the client engagement process significantly faster.
Technology Improves Information Sharing
Case transfers can be tedious and stressful processes for clients and case workers that can impair trust and risk privacy violations when mishandled. Advanced case management software such as Casebook eases the stress and workload of transferring clients while ensuring all data is shared in compliance with applicable legal standards.
Improved Client Tracking
Case management software simplifies information sharing for clients, which is especially important during stressful transfers. Software like Casebook allows clients to fill out their personal information, intake forms, surveys, and tests from their computers or phones. They can also include specific profile information, such as demographics, to improve your organization's reporting.
This simplified process takes much of the load off clients, allowing them to share information whenever and wherever they like. This way, should any information need repeating during a transfer, they only need to fill out a form on their phone rather than schedule an in-person meeting and start the process from scratch.
Casebook's system portal also allows case workers to send emails, texts, and other alerts directly from the app or website. With this feature, the client can access all messages, scheduling changes, and other essential aspects of transfers in one place so they never feel out of the loop.
Enhanced client tracking allows your organization to track and maintain client data, such as their case histories and contact information. As a result, the social worker who receives a transferred case can review all essential client details and easily recognize if anything's missing.
Administrative tasks such as double-entering forms and filing paperwork are among the most time-consuming aspects of social work, which can feel even more redundant and challenging for case workers inheriting transferred clients. By automating paperwork and information sharing, case management software such as Casebook simplifies the tedious aspects of case transfers.
For example, after a client fills out a digital form, the personal data they enter is automatically stored in Casebook's system, which keeps it encrypted and secure. From here, the information is almost immediately accessible from the dashboard, and case workers can even receive notifications when the completed forms are ready.
Casebook's thoroughly integrated integration improves the efficiency of case transfers by eliminating the need for hard copies and reducing the work needed. Both clients and case workers can seamlessly upload documents, add signatures, migrate records, improve communication, and avoid the hassles of deciphering handwriting. All of this is achieved without the privacy concerns of sharing details over email or insecure case management apps.
Depending on the incident, most transferred cases will require at least some appointments to be rescheduled or changed. Most client-focused case management systems feature appointment-scheduling tools that help clients and providers stay atop appointments.
Scheduling and discussing appointments using the Casebook app eliminates the hassles of case transfers, reducing the number of scheduling calls and allowing clients to respond on their own time. Additionally, organizations that use case management software allow clients to plan appointments themselves, view upcoming schedules, review previous appointments, access their information, check notes, and seek additional services.
Unified Information Access
Case workers who receive transferred clients may feel stressed or overwhelmed by their new client responsibilities, often leading to errors and miscommunication. Dependable case management software limits the risk of errors by allowing all client profiles and data to be easily accessed in one spot. This way, case workers don't have to scramble through dozens of emails and separate notes about a transferred client. Instead, they can access all of the previous worker's recorded data and add to it without worrying about missing anything.
Unified information access limits miscommunication and increases client satisfaction, which is especially vital during dissatisfactory transfers. Additionally, storing all data within Casebook gives clients more control by keeping all their tools and progress information in one spot that doesn't change during the transfer. As a result, they can inform new providers if they feel something is unaddressed from the previous implementation plan.
Digital Records and Client Confidentiality
Mishandled client transfers run the risk of sensitive information being shared with inappropriate parties, such as previously assigned case workers or cybersecurity threats. Mishandling or not securing data could risk lawsuits, fines, identity theft, scams, fraud, and impaired reputation with clients. Mishandled personal information also violates the following laws and protocols:
- The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- The NASW Code of Ethics
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- Title IX regulations
- State, local, and other confidentiality laws
Casebook's admin features allow case workers to be assigned and unassigned from cases, removing their access and keeping your organization compliant. In doing so, you ensure case workers don't accidentally view previous clients' personal information, which, while seemingly harmless, infringes their confidentiality and right to privacy.
For an added level of security, Casebook uses a three-tier security system that strengthens the service application, Cloud, and permissions. Casebook's Zero Trust permission model identifies and blocks access based on a least access policy, ensuring no one inside or outside the organization can view confidential information except those explicitly granted access. Casebook's Cloud and application encryptions go beyond the cybersecurity measures of many other case management applications to ensure client safety and legal compliance for all case types.
Using Case Management Technology for Client Engagement and Transfers
Human services organizations are dedicated to serving clients and providing the highest standard of care, which can be challenging during unexpected turnovers and transfers. During transitions, the new providers' focus should be on the client and their needs. Unfortunately, administrative tasks, scheduling concerns, and disorganized documentation from the previous provider consistently detract from this focus. Casebook's case management technology can help social workers and other care providers stay proactive from the client engagement stage through implementation. In doing so, they can utilize all essential information and ensure consistent client engagement. Schedule a demo today to learn more about Casebook and further prepare your organization for the unexpected.
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