In our technology-driven world, organizations use a variety of software systems and applications to manage and streamline daily business operations. However, when numerous platforms are used to manage specific tasks, it can be challenging and frustrating to compose workflows that seamlessly integrate all applications, along with their data. In a situation like this, case management can help set the right course of action.
Difference between case management and workflow
Case management is an unstructured workflow process focused on managing a specific case, event, or chain of events from start to finish. As a dynamic process, it provides the flexibility to execute event-driven work a bit differently if needed, while still achieving comparable results. Workflow, on the other hand, is structured with predictable inputs that focus on automating a series of steps to complete a task or a process with an expected outcome.
Case management is commonly used in process-to-decision work, service requests, incident management, and investigations. It is prevalent in process-driven industries like healthcare, insurance, and financial services to ensure patients’ and clients’ needs are managed effectively and efficiently.
With case management, the focus is on managing events with complex processes that involve multiple steps, applications and stakeholders. Each event may require its own unique process and a flexible approach to managing the flow of information, activities, and stakeholders involved. Case management requires high coordination and collaboration among different applications and parties, and the process may involve customization to meet each case’s specific needs.
Deploying integration at the content level
Integration at the content level involves integrating data and disparate content from multiple applications into a single system or print file. This allows users to access all the information they need from a single user interface, file, or document, rather than searching for and printing information from different applications. For organizations with complex and dynamic processes, integration of applications at the content level is an essential step.
For example, a healthcare provider might use one software application for electronic medical records, another application for billing, and yet another for scheduling appointments. Integration at the content level allows this information to be integrated into a single system, application, or patient case file, making it easier for healthcare providers to access, output, and share patient information.
The advantages of combining case management and application integration at the content level
Switching between different applications to manually coordinate and consolidate information can be time-consuming, tedious, and fraught with errors. On the other hand, by consolidating data and content from different applications into a single system, businesses can effectively manage cases and streamline operations. This improves communication between departments, teams, and customers, while also reducing errors and increasing productivity. In addition, it allows stakeholders to access all the information they need from a single interface, file, or printed document.
A real-life example of integrating applications at the content level
A police department comprised of four divisions—investigative, field, support, and administrative services — had a case management challenge. Whenever a crime was reported, a case file was created from disparate documents, each arriving separately and from its own application. For example, a typical file might contain police reports from one application, fingerprints from another, witness statements, lists and photos from crime scene investigators, DNA records, jail booking, arrest records, and court dockets. Case files would often include a mix of scanned documents and electronically generated documents.
During an investigation, case file documents needed to be reviewed and studied by various departments, such as the District Attorney’s office, the clerks of courts and various investigative officers. Case files also needed to be sent to the defense attorneys associated with each case. Most agencies were within the city government, but on occasion, outside agencies, such as Highway Patrol, Family Services/Child Services or federal agencies, were involved.
Whenever new content was added to a case file, the Records Bureau was required to distribute a marked copy of the updated case file to each department and agency involved in the case. An especially burdensome requirement was that each document copy had to carry the unique watermark of the receiving party.
The frequency of changes and the considerable number of departments and agencies created a clerical burden for the Bureau’s staff. Each case file was one hundred or more pages and had to go to a dozen or more departments and agencies. The manual process of accessing each application to obtain the necessary documents, then collating, printing, scanning and marking those documents, was excessively time-consuming and required elevated levels of staffing on all three shifts to meet court deadlines.
To ease this burden, the police department decided to deploy a highly efficient, cost-effective case management solution that integrated their existing applications at the content level. It automated the collection and transformation of disparate documents into a commonly used PDF format, placed them into a predefined case file, and distributed the case file to all stakeholders. This was made possible by a unique case identifier, which automatically collated each new document into the correct case file.
The process began with an automated email to the Records Bureau informing them that new content had been added to a case file. The Records Bureau agent then used a search template based on the unique case identifier to automatically retrieve the new documents. From within the application they were using, the Records Bureau agent simply selected the case management solution from a pull-down menu to output the retrieved documents. A custom screen appeared and presented the case file with a list of associated documents. On this screen, the agent was able to re-order the documents, select the number of copies for each document and select the target output and required watermark from the pull-down menus. Once completed, the case management solution automated the rest of the output management and distribution process. In addition to automating the case management process, the integration of applications at the content level saved the police department money, resources, and time, while providing error tracking, logging, and a record of where each case file was sent.
A final thought
Case management workflows that integrate applications and their content level are critical components of an effective business strategy. The benefits of these practices include improved communication, reduced errors, increased productivity, and streamlined operations. Businesses that successfully implement these practices can gain a competitive advantage in their industry while improving their bottom line and offering their internal and external customers a better experience. If your business is struggling to compose workflows that orchestrate the use of multiple applications, consider implementing a case management strategy and a solution that integrates applications at the content level to improve your overall performance.
Erin McCart is Senior Product Manager at Crawford Technologies, a provider of document solutions that streamline, improve, and manage customer communications. McCart has 25 years of product management and marketing experience in the software industry and content management and output management markets.