For the approximately 125,000 people who live in Wood County, OH, the Department of Job and Family Services (WCDJFS) is a safety net. Whether a family needs long-term assistance to get back on its feet or temporary help to get through a financial setback, WCDJFS is committed to fulfilling its ethical and legal responsibilities. Currently, the department has an active case population of about 5,000 and employs about 18 caseworkers.
WCDJFS began to consider enterprise content management (ECM) technology to ensure that it was fulfilling its mandate to consumers and employees, as well as meeting government requirements. An electronic document management solution promised to increase the speed and accuracy of responsiveness to consumers while easing the burden on caseworkers. Replacing paper files with universally accessible electronic ones would improve WCDJFS’ ability to prevent a finding on the agency for not sharing information or failure to meet mandated response times. The money and space devoted to file storage were also considered.
After evaluating a number of vendors, WCDJFS selected a solution from Northwoods Consulting, a software developer and systems integrator specializing in Department of Job and Family Service applications. Northwoods is also an authorized solution provider for OnBase, an integrated suite of ECM (enterprise content management) software solutions that include core capabilities in document imaging and workflow, COLD/ERM and records management. Not only did OnBase meet WCDJFS’ goals, it also met the record keeping requirements of the Wood County Records Commission and the ORC (Ohio Revised Code). As part of his due diligence, Greg Tipping, who was then IT director at WCDJFS, had the solution reviewed by both the Records Commission, which validated and approved it, and county prosecutors who found that it is acceptable under ORC.
Capture Documents at the Front Desk or the Caseworker’s Desk
The OnBase solution is currently being used by caseworkers, administrators and support staff in the Income Maintenance, PRC (Prevention, Retention, and Contingency) and Child Care units of the agency. When a consumer arrives at the WCDJFS for a caseworker appointment, front desk staff use EZDocs Premier Appointment Manager (PAM), a solution developed by Northwoods, to notify caseworkers. Employees at the front desk can monitor all caseworker availability, and the system includes tools to escalate an appointment to a supervisor if a consumer is kept waiting too long. In the past, front desk staff used three paper-based calendar/appointment logs and phone calls to caseworkers to track appointments in Income Maintenance.
During application and re-determination processes, consumers meet with case managers who help them fill out the requisite state and county forms. WCDJFS manages more than 300 of these formerly paper-based forms. Manually completing an average of six to eight different paper forms during each consumer face-to-face meeting was time consuming and error prone. Case managers were repeatedly filling out the same demographic information on each form during the meeting. Once completed, the forms would have to be signed by the case manager and consumer and copied to allow the consumer to retain a copy. The original form would be manually filed in the appropriate section of the case file.
To reduce redundant work and speed the interview process, WCDJFS implemented EZForms, an electronic forms application Northwoods developed for DJFS organizations. EZ Forms allows WCDJFS employees to effortlessly create new forms or modify existing ones so they can be completed electronically and saved to the OnBase repository. Screeners and caseworkers have been equipped with dual monitors and interactively assist consumers in completing electronic versions of these standard forms that were created using EZ Forms. Once the Social Security Number (SSN) has been provided, EZForms draws on existing consumer information to pre-populate these electronic forms with demographic data “screen scraped” from CRIS-E (Client Registry Information System Enhanced). A custom mainframe application
At a Glance
The Wood County Department of Job and Family Services has improved customer service, improved accountability and enhanced its ability to share information between agencies and caseworkers with enterprise content management technologies such as document imaging and workflow.
- 90% reduction in paper
- Reduced storage requirements freed enough floor space for two new offices in the first year
- Provides the ability to monitor response times
- Improved ability to respond to audits or legal discovery
- Increased accountability
- Consistent information shared between multiple caseworkers
- Shortened caseworker appointment times and labor required to pull files
- Income Maintenance
- Prevention, Retention, Contingency/Child Care
- Document Import Processor
- DVD Authoring
- Application Enabler
- CRIS-E (Client Registry Information System- Enhanced, Ohio’s custom mainframe application)
- Fujitsu Computer Products of America fi-4120 document scanners
- Topaz Systems, Inc. signature pads
Complementary Product Integrations
Used by more than 15,000 caseworkers and administrators, CRIS-E is the main intake tool for the Ohio DJFS. When the form has been completed, the consumer can sign it and initial any additional sections using a signature pad from Topaz Systems, Inc. The signed form is saved as an unalterable TIFF image, and the consumer’s signature cannot be retrieved individually. During the application and re-determination process, case managers also produce a 40-80 page document specific to all face-to-face applications called the CAF (Common Application Form). Generated through CRIS-E, the CAF had been printed by case manager, signed by a consumer and then manually filed in the paper case file.
WCDJFS has replaced the paper CAF with e-CAF, a process Northwoods developed to automatically capture the CAF print stream and present the document to the case manager and consumer in the EZForms interface. The consumer electronically signs the document using the signature pad, and the last 10 pages are printed as the consumer’s verification and receipt of the rights and responsibilities. Once the e-CAF has been signed, it is automatically stored in OnBase without any case manager intervention. Forms stored in OnBase are available to any user with appropriate access privileges. At this time, there are 50 dedicated OnBase workstations and five concurrent licenses for occasional users. The completed forms can also trigger automated workflow processes that route an application to the appropriate case worker, eliminating the need to pass around paper file folders. In all, WCDJFS currently has six OnBase Workflow processes, primarily focused on automating new application procedures.
The OnBase repository also accommodates supporting documents. This makes documents that are critical to several caseworkers, such as a form indicating a change in address or guardianship, available to all of them immediately. The solution includes several strategies for importing these documents into OnBase using EZDocs-Front Desk, a scanning utility created by Northwoods. EZDocs-Front Desk facilitates import of the document images and indexing values to OnBase. During the interview process, screeners and case workers can collect documents and scan them on fi-4120 document scanners from Fujitsu Computer Products of America. The caseworker enters the consumer’s SSN and then selects a button corresponding to the type of document (e.g. a driver’s license) through EZDocs-Front Desk’s touch screen interface. Using the SSN as a unique identifier, any additional keywords are automatically completed from a file retrieved from CRIS-E.
Occasionally, a consumer may need to return with additional documents. Front desk personnel use EZDocs-Front Desk to scan documents in the same manner as caseworkers. However, front desk staff provides a receipt generated by EZDocs-Front Desk that includes demographics of the person dropping off the documents and thumbnails of the documents themselves. A copy of the receipt is also stored in OnBase in the event that there is a dispute. This eliminates the need for front desk staff to copy documents and create handwritten receipts. The images are imported into OnBase using the OnBase Document Import Processor Module, and OnBase Workflow ensures that caseworkers have the documents within two minutes.
Caseworkers can also access documents in the OnBase repository directly from screens within CRIS-E. A total of 32 screens have been image-enabled using the point-and-click configurable OnBase Application Enabler™ module. Now, if a caseworker is on a screen that is associated with a vehicle, for instance, s/he can simply double click on that screen and is presented with the vehicle document.
Reduce Response Times and Caseworker Frustration
The OnBase solution has made it easier for caseworkers to manage the volumes of files they deal with and meet requirements for expedited and routine processing of benefits. “Without the paper, I can do my work much faster,” comments one caseworker. “Appointments go much faster, and I can look things up on the spot.”
In addition to being able to determine at a glance if all documents have been submitted, caseworkers have also found the “sticky note” functionality of OnBase useful in managing consumer compliance. For instance, a note can be added to a notification letter saved in OnBase and the caseworker can document phone conversations or other responses and actions.
“We may have broken even on interview times by doing them interactively instead of having consumers complete the forms themselves,” admits Chris Simington, Social Services Administrator at WCDJFS. “But that is more than offset by the big gain in having consumers be more engaged and involved in the process. Sometimes there is initial hesitance over using the signature pads, but that quickly fades.”
Ms. Simington also points out that OnBase has significantly cut down phone time related to consumer inquiries. If someone calls to confirm that a document was received, it is possible for any employee with appropriate rights to provide that information immediately by looking it up in OnBase. To assure that confidentiality is maintained, employees did undergo some supplemental training.
From a supervisory standpoint, OnBase Workflow makes it easier for administrators to view the status of applications and identify bottlenecks or other issues that could affect compliance. Potentially, the ability to share information could extend beyond Wood County. As more agencies manage files electronically, it may be possible to transfer rather than recreate a file when someone moves to another county.
Because scanning the documents triggers a timer to assure that applications are acted upon, WCDJFS’s OnBase solution helps support compliance with local, state and federal guidelines. For example, most routine requests must be processed within 30 days, but some benefits, such as emergency food assistance, must be delivered in a matter of hours.
OnBase also improves the ability to prove accountability. Should documents need to be produced for audits or legal discovery, they can be accessed immediately whether by date range for an audit or by case number for potential litigation. The solution also creates documentation that wasn’t available earlier, such as the receipt verifying documents scanned at the front desk.
Adopting an ECM strategy has also paid off in terms of hard storage costs. Tipping estimates that agencies using OnBase are 90% of the way to eliminating paper. By reducing space used to store case files and copies of the approximately 300 state and federal forms once processed using paper, WCDJFS has reclaimed enough space to add two additional offices. As existing files age out, there will be additional floor space that can be used for more worthwhile purposes.
Hyland’s OnBase solutions are used by thousands of organizations – commercial and government alike – to streamline operations, reduce costs and share information with employees, partners and customers. In the case of WCDJFS, OnBase also helps agencies deliver critical services to those in need.