How To Create a Client Intake Process Flow Chart: A Guide
Intake is arguably the most critical aspect of the social work process. It gives you a chance to identify the client's needs, limitations, and case management goals. Keeping the intake process organized and informational is crucial for client satisfaction, continuity of care, and health outcomes.
Many case and project managers adopt client intake process flow charts to help them plan for every step. Combined with data automation, these flow charts let social workers focus directly on their clients and treatment plans for more personalized services. Read on to learn how intake flow charts can improve your case management processes.
Benefits of Using a Flow Chart to Visualize the Intake Process
Implementing a client intake process flow chart will help your organization standardize the intake process across your organization. It lets you establish a clear game plan that anyone on your team can reference. Flow charts can also help you evaluate your personal intake practices: when every step in the process is documented, it's easier to tell what steps were glossed over or forgotten.
Flow charts are critical for the quality and continuity of care, ensuring case managers know every step they'll need to take throughout the entire intake process. This way, they can plan for challenges and accurately assess their suitability for each client, which minimizes the risk of mid-treatment transfers down the line.
How To Build Your Client Intake Process Flow Chart
There's no universal path to developing your client intake process flow chart — the details may change over time, and it largely depends on your personal style. While some case managers prepare their intake process templates before meeting clients, others develop their charts as they go.
Identify Entry Points
On flow charts, "entry points" refer to any place where a case is opened or discussions begin with a prospective client. These points start the flow of your chart and are often symbolized differently than the chart's other steps, such as with circles instead of squares. Depending on the chart, the entry points may all start at the same place in a path, or they may start at different steps and intersect later in the process.
In the client intake process, entry points usually involve a client calling in or being referred by another organization. However, the types of client entry points vary for different organizations and project proposals. For example, clinical social workers in hospitals may receive their cases from various healthcare providers within the same facility.
Being aware of and charting the various types of client entry points is an efficient way to track and plan for new clients. Clients who call in or are referred by insurance may require different intake steps than clients referred by a medical institution. By appropriately charting these processes, you can establish a clear and successful intake process, regardless of how your clients find you.
Additionally, frequently tracking incoming project requests and trends can help you develop stronger marketing and outreach programs.
Perform the Initial Screening and Gather Information
After you've contacted a client and scheduled an appointment, you should perform an initial screening. Though the intake steps may differ depending on the case manager's priorities, nearly every client must undergo a screening to determine their needs, goals, and other important information. Case managers who received transferred clients should perform their own screening to ensure that both caseworkers are on the same page.
The intake process flow chart is a good way to recommend steps and questions during the client's screening. For instance, some flow charts require case managers to ask clients how much time they have for their evaluation. Different steps and questions are then recommended based on their availability. Customized project intake forms and case management platforms also let you specify screening questions without cluttering your flow chart.
Assess the Main Needs for the Required Service Plan
Intake flow charts often split into different paths after the initial screening, though many steps may be similar. This part of the flow chart aims to evaluate the client's needs further and develop an appropriate care plan. This usually begins with compiling the client's personal information, digital forms, and intake notes. Many social workers use case management software to simplify this process and gauge the client's situation more clearly.
Steps frequently used in this part of the flow chart include:
- Paperwork and administrative tasks
- Scheduling pre-treatment and treatment sessions
- Sending new forms to clients
- Insurance and licensing
Allocate Resources and Appointment Times
After a more concrete treatment plan has been established, the case manager should identify their immediate resources and schedule appointments. Depending on the clients' and case managers' schedules, this can sometimes be a lengthy process. During this time, the social worker should identify resources for the client, including outside services, community programs, and additional training.
Wait lists and appointments can sometimes be challenging to work around, but most organizations wait until a treatment plan has been established to schedule appointments. This ensures that the case manager can appropriately meet the client's needs without transferring them or waiting for additional resources. Implementing a care plan without verifying that the case manager is ready could set back progress and restrict the organization from accepting other clients.
Document and Follow-Up
Most client intake flow charts end with the client's first treatment session, though the steps leading up to it will help define the rest of their care plan. As you prepare for their first session, lay the groundwork for thorough documentation. Consider creating a customized notation form and establish a plan to follow up with clients between sessions. With the proper foresight and planning, you can guarantee a smooth transition and a positive client experience.
How To Design an Effective and User-Friendly Flow Chart
How you set up your project intake process flow chart will depend on your organization, client, and best practices. It could also depend on your preferences and the most digestible designs for you.
Choose the Right Flow Chart Software and Tools for Your Needs
While some project teams use design and charting software, such as Canva and Excel, many now use case management software to develop their standard intake processes. These programs include intake process templates and recommendations, giving you more time to fine-tune the minor details.
With built-in data automation, human services software, such as Casebook, also helps you streamline the intake process. The system automatically compiles information, lets you customize forms, and sends update notifications to maintain constant progress.
Use Symbols and Shapes
Many flow charts use sequences of arrows and specifically shaped text bubbles to illustrate the intake process. For example, some templates feature squares for standard steps, circles for entry points, and triangles for questions or path dividers. Some flow charts use color instead of or in addition to shape to indicate different actions, paths, and outcomes.
You can use any symbols and indicators that you prefer on your intake process template. However, your symbolism must be consistent when creating different flow charts to avoid confusion.
Create a Logical and Intuitive Flow
Take your time as you develop the body of your flow chart to ensure the paths are distinguishable and comprehensible. Search for any text bubbles or orders of events that are unclear or don't make sense due to typos, wordiness, or font size. You should also look for steps that are too close to one another to ensure you don't confuse paths or skip anything.
If your chart's flow feels too cluttered or wordy, consider what details or instructions can be included elsewhere, such as within your project intake form or dashboard. Asking for feedback from colleagues can help you further identify mistakes or illogical instructions.
Test and Refine for Clarity
Many social work protocols are actively changing, so the steps and practices you use during intake may need to change, too. As you test and continue to work with your newly created flow chart, you should take time to consider where it could be improved or refined. For example, consider steps you instinctively perform out of order or older practices that can be replaced with something new.
Client intake charts usually only serve as guidelines for your workflow rather than laws you have to abide by. Some social workers use them to gauge and evaluate their processes on a broader scale. So, testing and refining your flow chart should be more about your specific practices than the chart's design.
Overcome the Challenge of Client Intake With the Right Software
What is case management if not a complex, multi-step process? Especially in the human services sectors, case managers are often bogged down by administrative tasks, heavy caseloads, and changing protocols. Fortunately, many social work organizations now use case management platforms to ease these burdens and restore focus to the clients. Get a Casebook demo today to learn how our software can streamline your case management processes, from intake through treatment.