December 16, 2015 | Written by: Paul Dommel
Categorized: Social Programs
Thirty years after FEDEX delivery people began carrying handhelds and nearly a decade after the release of the first iPhone, more social service agencies are launching pilots and almost all are considering mobile.
None too soon. In the US alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2012 there were nearly 1 million social workers and assistants. Once you get your head around that number, consider this: It is expected to grow 20% by 2022. In addition to a huge pool of workers, nearly half of the US population comes in some sort of contact with an employment, housing, social, or government health program in any given year. The same is true for other countries. That’s a lot of questions, documents, applications, eligibility determinations, placements, visits, and services.
Making all of that activity more efficient and results more tangible will have a real impact. Mobile solutions will improve efficiency and job satisfaction of case managers. Greater job satisfaction is a big deal. Turnover among child welfare case workers, those that watch out for the most vulnerable children and families, can be as high as 30 – 40%.
These solutions are even likely to reduce fraud and strengthen program integrity in services like home health and transportation. These are examples of services where providers are paid by the trip. A few bad actors make a good living charging governments for visits not made and services not delivered.
In the same way that many of us use mobile computing to eliminate bank trips, Texas and New York City are allowing clients to use devices to submit information and supporting documentation for social programs. This will allow government leaders to redirect social program resources from processing routine transactions to developing plans and programs that improve outcomes for those with complex family or individual needs.
Two years ago, the Austrian agency responsible for employment services worked with IBM to launch an app to help job seekers. The technology has become the primary mechanism that many job seekers use to find jobs. That Austrian government application won an award in late 2015 for being best job app in the country.
Child welfare organizations in Massachusetts and Missouri find that mobile technology helps case workers to spend more time in the field – working with children and families in need – and less time in the office at a desktop. Both states expect to reduce case worker turnover by improving the quality of tools and work environment. Pilots are sprouting everywhere.
Experience from corporations and agencies with successful mobile programs points to a set of lessons learned.
• Mobile is best when flowing from a digital strategy
• Establish metrics of success — success will come
• Employ change management
• Don’t forget continuous feedback in design and enhancement
• Think long-term. Mobile solutions must integrate into the enterprise.
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