How to Pivot to Remote Service Delivery

Unlocking the power of Athena’s remote service, direct engagement and workforce collaboration tools to support a pivot to remote care in the era of social isolation/distancing.

While not all service types are amenable to remote/telehealth service provision modalities (see for example, Telehealth – Not For Everyone), there are indeed many that are and this crisis has put all agencies to the test in terms of innovating to minimize service disruption where possible. For some services, the exigencies brought on by COVID-19 have created opportunities that have yielded unexpected benefits (see for example, The Surprising Intimacy of Online Therapy Sessions During the Pandemic).

In this piece, we’ll highlight Athena’s features and tools that can be leveraged by our clients to help you manage through this crisis – either through complete social isolation or through the period where these protocols are relaxed over time to arrive at the ‘new normal’ (Nothing was the Same: 3 Reasons Post-COVID-19 Social Work Practice is Never Going Back).

SaaS and Business Continuity

remote service delivery at homeOne of the most profound impacts of SaaS (Software as a Service) business systems, such as Penelope, is their resiliency in times of local disruption of access to localized information sources and management tools such as paper files, on premise software applications, and other resources that must be accessed solely from a given location or physically. Organizations that have moved to the cloud have been the best positioned to transition to remote service delivery and support the pivot to work from home requirements. In this important sense, Penelope’s SaaS nature provides a key advantage in ensuring business continuity – and critically, supports your organization’s ability to maintain service continuity for your client base. Not having to worry about disaster recovery, security concerns, setting up virtual private networks or Citrix environments to provide ongoing access to essential case, financial, reporting and scheduling information allows your organization to focus on the important parts of the pivot – how to serve your clients in this era of social isolation/distancing.

Direct Engagement Tools

Fortunately, Athena has been on a journey to provide a suite of extensive tools that integrate direct client engagement pathways into Penelope’s core case management framework.

Did you know that clients can register for service online and their request for service can enroll them in your Penelope waitlist and even trigger a tailored follow-up or screening form to complete on their phone?

As you can see below, our Add.Me web portal tool allows clients to directly register with your organization from their phone/tablet/laptop using an intake or referral form your agency can configure (this process can also be used to support third party referrals). There are automated routing capabilities available in Penelope that can prompt workflow actions based on the data collected in the form. The request can go on a particular waitlist and notify specific staff members, among other options. This web form can be setup as a link from your website or a secure page shared with key community referring organizations. Above all, Add.Me provides a direct pathway for community members to share their story and reach out for service in a secure and confidential manner – reducing barriers to service and saving data entry.

diagram of penelope ecosystem for remote service delivery

With Engage, clients are able to read, signify consent and acceptance, and complete documents such as self-completed surveys, screens, assessments, satisfaction surveys, feedback and other documentation automatically sent to them as part of your workflows. These forms, which are accessible and are designed to be completed in a mobile phone first context, can be triggered by such service milestones as intake, new service enrolment, before and/or after each session/visit, every 30 – 60 – 90 days etc., or based on other criteria. Engage allows your team to provide key aspects of service remotely in near real time. For example, you may wish to automatically send out a quick information document and touchpoint seeking to hear how your clients have been managing every 30 days or so during this crisis and as the transition unfolds. Engage will support this automation and importantly, monitor the data coming back to trigger alerts or escalations as needed so that nothing “falls through the cracks” and you can stay on top of your clients/community’s health and wellbeing in a low cost, easy to implement manner.

Another topical example as social isolation protocols are relaxed, would be to automatically send your clients a brief self-assessment COVID-19 screen prior to any on site or home visit to ensure the safety of your staff and clients. Engage is a perfect delivery method for this type of direct, automated engagement.

Did you know that clients or caregivers can login to their own secure portal to review or complete documentation, book new appointments, view/edit their scheduled appointments (within rules you set), sign forms, request services, pay for services, chat with their service providers?

With our Client Connect Portal, you can build upon the kind of remote service delivery enabled by Engage to use it as a platform for scheduling ZOOM/telehealth sessions – including automated reminders, documentation to be completed, automatic feedback forms, interactive scheduling and more. As the client portal is a secure means of communicating with your clients and coordinating service with them, it is also possible to engage in near real time asynchronous secure chat/e-counselling sessions. Assuming your organization enables such features within Client Connect, this direct communication pathway also allows your clients to reach out directly, ask questions and otherwise engage with their service providers – with secure messaging and alerts all harmonized in your staff’s inbox – with all communications tracked and integrated as part of the ongoing case file. Clients can even pay for services via an integrated credit card (or PayPal) processing function that gives them complete access to their transaction history in printable form.

Each of these components can be leveraged by your organization and supplemented by other Penelope features to pivot to provide different forms of secure remote services and easy to implement touchpoints to your clients. If you are wondering how or if you have any questions on how your unique service, staff/resourcing and client requirements can adapt to enable success in this new era, reach out to us and we’ll be pleased to help!

Screening Tools

Did you know that you could build your own custom forms into Penelope to collect different types of information either from clients or staff? You can also embed into these forms calculations and flags that can trigger alerts, escalations or requests for additional information in real time.

As you and your organization look to emerge out of this WFH/total isolation era, self-reported screening for COVID-19 symptoms as well as other impacts of isolation will be important requirements to protect the safety of your clients, volunteers and staff (both back office and front line service providers). As described above, building such documents and workflows into Penelope will be a low cost means of providing the kind of early warning systems that will allow you to create a structured and rule-based transition to ‘normal’ service practices. We encourage you to utilize this functionality for these purposes – especially the embedded flagging and scoring functions tied to alerts and escalations.

Remote Management and Workforce Collaboration

Using a SaaS/Cloud based application enables your staff to remain in real time contact and Penelope’s collaboration suite provides a powerful platform for clinical discussions, alerting and escalations, structured document review and sign off procedures, messaging when not logged in on important matters, checklist and task management – all integrated within a unified inbox layer that provides visibility and access to relevant clinical and administrative activities and accountabilities. If you are not sure if you are harnessing these capabilities for maximum efficiency and management oversight in this remote collaboration era, contact us and we’ll be pleased to find out more about your needs, ambitions and discuss helpful options.

Contactless Payment

Did you know that clients can pay online for services via credit card or PayPal?

Procedures can be developed and implemented to support the payment of services by clients in a secure online self-service manner – including access to their entire transaction history and in the case of co-pays or NDIS, up to date utilization information on their authorized benefits/package of care. Such processes can be extremely important in ensuring cash flow continuity in a remote service or transitional context that requires contactless payment options. Such self-service capabilities also provide for better client service and reduced demand on administrative back office staff.

Contactless Signatures

Did you know that clients can sign consents for services or other documentation online?

With Client Connect, client signatures can still be captured – safely, securely and easily –directly from the client or caregiver for various requirements. These signatures are stamped, dated and auditable and are stored as part of the client’s file (they can even trigger notifications once they are completed or if they have been outstanding for a certain amount of time). With this functionality, your staff can protect their health and wellbeing while still adhering to requirements around client documentation.

Move to More Comprehensive Digital Service Tracking

woman on the phoneIf a small “silver lining” of sorts can be found in this unprecedented crisis (trying to look on the bright side obviously!), it might be the contribution of the necessities and unique exigencies of this ‘forced’ remote work environment to more robust and comprehensive data collection practices in the not for profit service delivery world. Without the ability to share information in the more informal, traditional ways – including those expressed in paper or captured ‘outside’ of the secure and authoritative case file – there is an opportunity here to increase the discipline and commitment to data quality (and importantly, completeness) that fulfills the vision of a truly paperless file that is the authoritative source of truth and with the practice accountabilities that are required to achieve this vision. In an era where there is literally no access to any paper files or supplementary information or documentation, the critical importance of the digital case file to “be able to stand on its own” as the complete record becomes even more imperative. Penelope provides a number of mechanisms for not only tracking an extremely diverse range of information, but there are ample tools available to help provide management oversight for data quality, timely completion of clinical documentation, centralized and easy qualitative review of case files, notes and documents, clinical collaboration, peer review, dashboard reporting, clinical supervision and other review, reminder and notification systems. Contact us if you would like to find out how to get the most out of these capabilities to support your vision for a robust and comprehensive digital client information and service management system.

There are of course many aspects of preparing your organization to effectively function in the midst of so much uncertainty and profound disruption. In this part of our website we are seeking to curate and collect the kinds of resources and documents that we feel will be helpful to your organization as you continue on your journey. This brief overview was focused on making sure you are aware of and getting the most out of the Penelope capabilities to support and drive this transition.

We at Athena are honored to play a small part in your truly heroic work during this crisis and – almost more importantly – in the uncertain days ahead that will surely see a surge in demand for your services. We want to help as much as we can so please do not hesitate to reach out to us – we want to share your successes and struggles and realities as it will be helpful for your peers around the world and will help inform how we can better be your partner in care.

#Keepthefaith, stay healthy and safe and above all – THANK YOU for your service, your heroism and your dedication. We’ll get through this together.