Harnessing technology to improve human service delivery and the client experience.

Author:Dalton, Erin
Position:Technology speaks

In the past, when a human service provider agency offered services to a person involved with the Allegheny County (PA) Department of Human Services (DHS), that contracted provider had limited access to the client's information. The provider knew only what the client chose to share and had no easy way of identifying past or current service involvement. As a result, clients did not always receive the thoroughly integrated care for which DHS strives.

And so DHS, with support from provider agencies and input from information technology experts, legal counsel, and program staff, developed Client View, an application that builds on the strength of the county's data warehouse to give providers user-friendly access to vital client service data.

Previously, only staff within DHS were able to view these records, which they accessed through an application called DataVue. Using DataVue, approved DHS staff were able to see information compiled from all data sources about individual clients' demographics, past service involvement, and current services being received, allowing them a full-picture view of a client's situation. Such information was useful across DHS offices; for example, intake call center staff could see whether a caller had prior contact with DHS or its providers and child welfare staff could become familiar with a family prior to going on a home visit.

This integrated, client-level information was not available to the approximately 385 service providers with whom DHS contracts, however, nor was it accessible to the clients themselves. And that's where Client View fills a gap.


Providing the Best Possible Services to Clients

Knowing a client's service history allows providers to offer the appropriate level and type of care, without duplicating or conflicting with services that the client might already be receiving from another agency. Adrienne Walnoha, executive director of Community Human Services, Inc. (CHS), a DHS-contracted agency that provides a range of community programs in areas such as homeless assistance and mental health treatment, said "if we know what [challenges people] have, we have a better handle on what they need and how they could get it." She gives an example of a family coming to her organization for help while DHS is assisting the family with housing needs. With the information provided by Client View, staff at CHS would know about the services already being provided so that CHS, DHS, and other...

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