Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Careful Planning Will Be a Big Help

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Careful Planning Will Be a Big Help

Article excerpt

Case management software implementation is a common cause of anxiety among behavioral Healthcare administrators. After all, the implementation process has many potential pitfalls. But the agency that plans its implementation, manages it well, and sets clear and realistic goals for using the software can experience an effective and dread-free implementation. The potential benefits of a carefully planned, closely managed software implementation are tremendous, particularly when the software's strengths complement the agency's strengths.

There is no single formula for a successful software implementation. However, the successful experience of one agency can be used as a model. One such agency is HELP USA, a national not-for-profit based in New York City with programs also on Long Island; Westchester County, New York; Buffalo; Philadelphia; Las Vegas; and Houston. With an approximately $70 million budget, HELP has 810 staff members who provide case management, employment, education, mentoring, day care, after-school, and medical programs, as well as housing and support services, to homeless individuals and families. The agency's size and service variety could have made for a rocky case management software implementation. Instead, by setting smart goals and carefully managing the process, HELP successfully implemented case management software.

Planning and goal setting

HELP began its implementation process even before selecting software by setting simple, clear-cut goals. Its major objective was to implement software that would manage the records of all of its clients and programs, replacing several other systems developed over the years. HELP also wanted the software to assist it with meeting its funders' reporting requirements and achieving better quality assurance and compliance. In addition, a secondary goal was to make the software the single source for HELP's executive tracking system, which provides senior leaders with quick and easy access to agency-wide data.

A team-based approach

HELP worked toward these major goals with measured expectations and a teambased approach. John Kolp, HELP's director of information systems, assembled seasoned managers into a core implementation team to set milestones and plan the basics leading up to the software's introduction. Once the software was selected (Foothold Technology's AWARDS software), the core team was expanded to include program-based and direct-service staff.

Kolp credits the implementation team's persistence for the rollout's success, noting that the focused and committed groups role extends beyond the software's initial introduction: "They meet once a month and as we add functionality, the group continues to make decisions. They are responsible for going back to their programs and saying, 'We have to do this and change that.' It's a user group; they share what they found out, what obstacles they've run into, and it's become institutionalized."

Another HELP institution is the "roundtable" portion of the implementation team's meetings, during which representatives from each site share among themselves and with senior managers their experiences rolling out and using the software. This creates a continuous feedback loop among those entering the information and those using it to make organizational decisions. …

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