If there’s one thing my experience has taught me, it’s that case management is a wild and unique animal. As a field it is marked by fluidity, changing with not only the medical, economic, legal and cultural ripples in our society but hinging on (and perhaps this is the biggest catalyst for change) the incredible advancements in technology.
The Good Old Days
I have been a case manager for more than 25 years and keenly remember the days before computers, cell phones, beepers and fax machines. Administratively, everything was done by hand and there were many times that you would wait patiently by the mailbox for all of your documentation. As you can imagine (or remember), this truly lengthened the case management process.
The lesser emphasis in technology, however, did increase the human interaction component significantly. If you wanted your documentation as soon as possible, you had to be there at all the appointments in order to make that happen. This does not stray far from my own paradigm regarding field case management. So many times I have witnessed field case managers “phoning in” their case activity. They do not go to appointments and now can easily rely on technology to fill in the gaps (faxes/emails). Such is the double-edged sword of technology – it makes our lives easier but also contributes to our laziness.
The Future Is Now
Today we are all tied to our cell phones, our iPads, laptops, fax machines and scanners. When something does not function we are almost paralyzed. In today’s electronic-driven world, we can be more efficient with our time while traveling in between appointments, for example. The sheer administrative time spent on reports has dramatically decreased since the computer. Emailing, or even texting, physicians, providers, adjusters, employers and clients has opened up a whole new world of communication and efficiency for case managers.
As the field of case management continues its collective journey into a future dominated by technology, the importance of time management and work/life balance will grow as well.
My goal has been to decrease the amount of work that a case manager needs to do when they get home after their appointments and increase efficiency. With that in mind, I have found the following to be extremely helpful:
1. Use your phone or smartphone to dictate notes after each activity (whether it be phone call/office visit, etc.). If the volume of your caseload warrants it, have someone type the notes up for you, which will allow you to cut and paste into documents when you are back at home. Not only does this increase efficiency, but it also assists in capturing all your billing that you might normally forget when busy or out on the road. If you do not have a phone capable of doing this, there are many services that can do this for you by calling in and then will email you your dictations usually with 24-48 hour turn around time. The computer voice-activated programs are also an option.
2. Have as many documents faxed/emailed to you as possible and purchase a very reasonable service that sends all your incoming faxes to your computer as a PDF document. This saves inordinate amounts of time.
3. Confirm all of your appointments 24 hours in advance. Even if you confirmed it previously, reconfirm. Doctors’ schedules can change and clients may call to change appointments.
4. Save every document you receive/send out in a virtual file on your computer. Start doing this today and you will be happy when you get a call in two years about the same case.
5. Invest (very little money) in some type of cloud/portable drop box so that way when you are on the road you can access anything on your home computer/files at any time.
6. Use an application for inputting business cards into your phone/computer. This will save you vast amounts of time looking up a doctor’s or vendor’s information.
7. Use some type of computer or phone calendar. I still see many of my fellow case managers lugging around huge daytimers. Mine was stolen once from my car and it was irreplaceable. If you do a calendar on the computer it backs up in case of malfunctions/lost/stolen documents and is always accessible.
8. Back up everything. Whether you use a third-party service or your own portable hard drive, back it up regularly. Truly, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. While data loss is devastating, it easily can be avoided.
9. Keep an excel spreadsheet on your case list and monitor closely your diary dates/information.
10. Network with fellow case managers on an ongoing basis to find out about doctors/changes in practice and specialty information and fees.
In the end, the nuts and bolts of case management have not changed. It is the human factor that harkens back to the good ’ole days. Working your files, maintaining contact with all parties and communicating all information in order to facilitate case movement is our job.
If your case is not moving forward, it should not be open. If you are relying too much on technology and not going to appointments, you are not being an effective field case manager – and you have effectively become a telephonic case manager. By being efficient, you will help prevent burnout. And you will be able to take on additional case management tasks – and excel in each of them.