In the human services industry, client intake is a central part of the process that sets the stage for successful service delivery. Without a thorough understanding of who the client is, what their needs are, and how to best serve them, it can be difficult to perform meaningful services. The human services industry has traditionally used paper-based client intakes. However, this method has its drawbacks, such as handwriting legibility issues, data accuracy problems, and difficulty in tracking changes.
These issues can be minimized and even eliminated by utilizing digital client intake solutions, allowing for more accurate data collection, better readability, and the ability to engage with clients through technology.
No More Paper for Intake
While the traditional solution of paper-based client intakes has been dominant in the human services industry for many years, it has many disadvantages when compared to modern digital solutions. Not only will you save money and precious time spent dealing with paper-based client intakes, but you will also gain the additional advantage of being able to store and retrieve data more quickly and accurately. The following are some of the most common problems associated with paper intake forms.
Because paper-based intake forms are filled out by hand, it is easy for errors to be made. Examples include incorrect formatting (dates entered incorrectly) and difficult-to-interpret typos. These inaccuracies can lead to mistakes in subsequent steps of the client intake process, such as when it comes time to input the data into a system or when comparing client information across multiple intakes.
Another common issue with paper-based intake forms is illegible handwriting. When service providers have difficulty reading a client’s handwriting, they may make incorrect assumptions, struggle to understand the meaning behind certain answers, or overlook important information that could have been beneficial. This can lead to entering incorrect data into the system or redoing or throwing out the form altogether.
Paper-based intakes are prone to getting lost or misfiled, making it difficult to keep track of all the client data. This can lead to delays in service delivery and frustrated clients who have waited longer than expected for their intake forms to be processed. It can also result in creating multiple copies of an intake form, increasing the chances of input errors or confusion about who the client is and what services they are requesting.
Repeat Appointments To Get It Right
If there are errors on the paper intake form, the client must come back in and fill out a new one. This leads to repeat appointments and duplicate or conflicting data being entered into the system. It also puts a strain on service providers who have to take time away from their other duties. Not only does this lead to frustration for both the client and the service provider, but it can also be a waste of resources.
According to data analyzed by St. Charles County (Missouri), Americans use 85 million tons of paper every year. Of those 85 million tons, approximately one billion trees worth of paper are thrown away annually. Imagine the environmental impact of having to print out thousands of intake forms every month for clients. This not only increases paper consumption and waste but also contributes to global warming, increases deforestation, and puts an additional strain on natural resources.
Difficulty in Tracking Changes
It can be difficult to track any changes that are made when dealing with paper-based intake forms. With a digital form, however, the changes can be tracked easily in a clear and concise manner.
Advantages of Digital Forms
There are many advantages to using digital client intake forms, including ease of navigation, elimination of legibility issues, assistance in ensuring accurate data entry, and reduction in overhead costs with filing and form auditing. Each of these benefits will help make your intake process more efficient, more cost-effective, and easier to manage.
Digital forms are much more user-friendly than paper versions, which can be confusing and difficult to understand. Digital forms provide a clear, well-organized format that is easy to follow, which reduces the risk of errors being made.
No Legibility Issues
Using electronic forms eliminates the problem of illegible handwriting that can occur with paper forms. In many cases, data entry is either not required due to advanced digital form technology or is drastically reduced due to the lack of messy handwriting.
Improved Communication & Transparency
Digital forms provide an open and transparent form of communication, which can lead to greater trust between client and provider as well as more timely responses from parties. Whether you're dealing with onboarding new foster parents, taking an incident report, or handling service requests, digital forms streamline communication in a way that paper forms cannot.
Cost Savings & Efficiency
According to a recent report from the US Chamber of Commerce, the use of manual and paper-based processes costs government agencies $38.7 billion per year. One of the main benefits of digital forms is that they can help reduce overhead costs with filing, form auditing, and scheduled meetings with partners or clients. Not only do digital forms require far less manpower to manage and process compared to paper forms, but they can also help reduce the cost of printing, storing, and mailing materials.
Data Security & Privacy
Enhanced security features are built into digital forms to protect sensitive data from unauthorized access or tampering. These features include encryption, multi-factor authentication, and more, which offer better protection for data privacy and security. This helps ensure that confidential information does not fall into the wrong hands and allows organizations to have greater control over how their data is stored. Additionally, digital forms can be automatically made compliant with GDPR, HIPAA, and other data privacy regulations. This helps organizations avoid costly fines for non-compliance.
Many digital forms offer advanced features such as auto-completion, drop-down menus, and other intuitive tools that ensure data accuracy. For example, auto-complete functions can recognize spellings and phrases entered into the form, eliminating typos and mistypes. Data entry boxes can even be restricted to only accept specific formats (date formats, currency formats, etc.), helping to eliminate certain types of errors altogether.
As they can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, electronic forms make it easier for employees, partners, and customers to submit information from any remote location. This makes digital forms particularly useful for organizations with distributed teams or those that need to collect data from multiple sources. Digital forms can also be integrated with other systems, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and workflow automation tools, to make data collection more efficient while streamlining various processes.
Improved Data Insights
Using digital forms provides organizations with valuable analytics capabilities to track data submissions and analyze trends. By doing so, organizations can identify areas that need improvement, find opportunities for growth, and gain insights into client behavior. Furthermore, digital forms can be integrated with data visualization tools to make it easier for organizations to recognize and take action on important trends.
Engage Clients Through Technology
One of the greatest advantages of digital forms is the opportunity they provide to engage clients and partners in a modern and interactive way. By creating forms that are visually attractive and simple to use, you can encourage users to submit their information quickly and efficiently while also improving their overall experience with your organization. Beyond just simplifying the uptake process, digital forms can also be used to create surveys and polls that allow organizations to gain valuable feedback, identify areas of improvement, and measure client satisfaction.
This is where Casebook comes in. Our platform provides a comprehensive suite of tools that make it easy to create digital forms and manage data capture across a variety of devices and services. Included in this is cb Intake, an application within the Casebook platform that provides support for inquiry and referral, critical incident, and report-taking in a social service context. With cb Intake's Workload View, all reports are gathered in one place and can be filtered in real-time, helping organizations speed up their intake process by centralizing data and organizing it in a meaningful way.
Additionally, Casebook offers integration with over 5,000 other services through Zapier, which makes it easier to connect your digital forms with other applications you use for workflow automation, data visualization, analytics, and more. With Casebook's robust suite of features, it is easier than ever to capture data quickly and accurately, identify key trends, manage workflows, and easily engage with clients in active cases.