Guide to Optimizing Case Management Processes

case management process

It’s common for businesses to face challenges like resolving employee problems and tracking software bugs. To fix these pain points, business technology partners (BTPs) are the key to creating solutions that drive success in today’s complex business world. 

BTPs can tackle these problems by implementing good case management processes that help them match their clients’ IT strategies with overall business goals.

This guide examines the ways effective case management can transform your organization’s processes by laying out key steps and best practices to streamline your operations.

What is case management?

A case is typically an issue or request that requires an investigation or additional research into a business matter so as to reach an appropriate resolution. Examples of cases include looking into contracts, reports, or past communication in order to resolve issues like delivery terms or purchase order validation.

Case management is the workflow used to complete the multi-step process for resolving a case. Case management procedures and processing will vary depending on the industry, but it generally includes coordinating ad hoc tasks, processing information, a process/workflow management tool or platform, and a human to handle complex decision-making. 

What is the case management process?

A case management process consists of a series of steps that resolve a case. It provides a solution with a manageable workflow for complex problems in many industries. Because this process typically handles non-routine or ad hoc tasks, the case management process is considered a long-tail process.

Businesses often use case management processes to perform the following:

  • Employee complaint management
  • Employment candidate screening
  • Customer onboarding
  • Service ticket resolution
  • Claims resolution
  • Service request resolution
  • Bug tracking

A case manager follows a series of steps to oversee the case, whether it’s a bug, complaint or ticket. This approach ensures the required information and procedures are all handled by one team.

Software usually performs the majority of work in managing the workflow, providing a holistic view of the case from beginning to end. Case management promotes efficiency, continuity, and clear communication, ensuring that problems don’t go unresolved.

Importance of efficient case management

The most important benefits of case management include a better understanding of client information through improved organization of information. It also accelerates the resolution of cases, largely by automating technical processes. In addition, the ready access of information about a case promotes collaboration among stakeholders.

Learn more: What Is Workflow Automation?

Core case management levels and process steps

Case management consists of the following seven steps:

  1. Screening and case intake
  2. Assessment and evaluation
  3. Risk evaluation
  4. Plan and establish goals
  5. Implementation
  6. Monitoring and review
  7. Outcome evaluation

Case managers don’t necessarily need to perform the steps in the above order, as case management is sufficiently robust to handle complex issues with sudden changes.

For example, a case manager will often return to the planning phase when a new problem arises during implementation; they should already know of the case and its associated risks. A case management steps process is robust enough to meet sudden changes in complex cases.

The following sections detail each step in the case management process.

1. Screening and case intake

The first step in case management is to ensure that the case truly needs this process, thus avoiding unnecessary work and keeping the workflow uncluttered. For a case involving an employee complaint, for example, the case manager must first determine whether the complaint has merit or if the situation is a simple misunderstanding.

 If it’s the latter, the screening phase saves time and provides an opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding, often immediately for simple problems. This potential for eliminating cases early is crucial to an efficient workflow, as case management is primarily designed for complex problems.

The screening process is also the first step in determining the urgency, whether it’s with the appropriate team, or if any case information is missing. 

2. Assessment and evaluation

In the assessment and evaluation phase, a case manager analyzes the screening phase information in far greater detail. While the screening phase determines whether or not the case management process is necessary, the assessment provides managers with deeper insights into the issue in order to develop an appropriate solution.

The case manager’s assessment of any issue involves conferring with a case originator like a client or employee to gather relevant information. It’s crucial for them to take the issue seriously and establish a rapport with the originator. It’s common for case managers to follow rubrics during these assessments to ensure that they receive all the necessary information.

3. Risk evaluation

Once the case has been assessed, the manager evaluates its risks. Some workflows require the manager to assign a risk category to the case, to get an estimate of the scope of work it will require and assign it an official priority.

Assume for this example that a helpdesk technician receives two tickets, one of which requests a minor hardware update while the other reports a major system outage.

In this event, the technician would almost always prioritize the second ticket and escalate it should they be unable or unqualified to resolve it. Evaluating risks allows the case manager to determine each case’s urgency and severity, thus assisting with the development of the best solutions for both.

4. Plan and establish goals

Once case managers have obtained solid information about the case, they can develop a plan. The goal of this phase is to solve the problems identified in the assessment phase, generally by creating a set of actions and their desired goals. Case managers take this time to select the methods they’ll use, how to use them, and when to use them.

For example, a case manager who is handling an employee complaint will first compile a list of necessary resources when conducting the investigation like IT personnel, members of the legal department, and senior executives.

The planning phase requires patience and careful thought to complete, which means time-sensitive cases may take a higher priority. However, taking more time to develop a strategy usually increases the probability that the plan will succeed. Finding the balance between quality and speed is essential to an efficient case management process.

5. Implementation

Implementation is, simply, a case manager carrying out the plan they devised in the planning phase. It should include the required tools and solutions to resolve the issue, as well as work needed. This includes making appointments with the necessary people and consulting with various professionals and experts.

If the purpose of the case is to onboard a new employee, for example, the case manager might perform tasks such as arranging for IT to issue hardware and grant appropriate permissions, contacting finance to rotate the new hire into payroll, and assign them a mentor.

6. Monitoring and review

The case manager then analyzes whether or not the implementation was effective, and if so, to what degree. Several checks are involved, including conferring with the case originator and various other stakeholders to ensure the problem has reached a thorough resolution. In some cases, this may include scheduling visits or following up with the requester to ensure that the problem was resolved.

7. Outcome evaluation

Evaluating outcomes is the last phase of case management, which includes collecting feedback and analyzing metrics about the case. The feedback should be documented, as well as other aspects of the case such as actions, results, and costs. 

The end result of the evaluation phase should be an analysis of the case’s return on investment and cost/benefits, with the documentation distributed to key stakeholders. This report is essential for improving case management, as it allows the case manager to apply lessons learned going forward.

In addition, an evaluation allows managers to avoid implementing strategies that were not fully effective in the past and instead focus their goals on finding new solutions.

Case management best practices

Before case management ever takes place, a set of standards should be in place that all case managers agree to follow as part of resolution protocol. What occurs in each phase won’t, of course, be the same for every case, but the standards should be standardized, structured, and consistent. This also includes providing requesters with respect, privacy, and a listening ear when concerns arise.

Communication and collaboration

Case management should be a collaborative process of solution development in accordance with a requester’s requirements and possible alternatives should the primary plan fail to resolve the issue.

Multiple entities are involved in the process of resolving a case, including administrators, case managers, clients, customers, and service providers. There probably won’t be a need for all of them to communicate closely with one another — in fact, in many cases, they shouldn’t — but case managers should be in close contact with each.

Effective communication and resource management is essential for improving quality, cutting costs and reducing operation time. As a result, case management is only successful when caseworkers efficiently collaborate with stakeholders.

Data security and privacy

Data privacy is crucial in case management because it usually involves the analysis of sensitive information about clients, partners or other stakeholders. Case managers must ensure that this analysis doesn’t compromise the privacy of anyone involved. Best practices for achieving this include:

  • Minimizing data collection
  • Auditing and documenting data
  • Encrypting and securing data
  • Identifying data sources
  • Anonymizing data

Continuous improvement

The ability of learning from each case to continually improve your case management process is part of any quality improvement effort, in addition to being drivers of professional growth. Continuous improvement involves reflecting on past results, including experiences and feedback.

You should use this information to apply new skills and knowledge, and share these insights with others. Continual improvement also improves your confidence, competence and credibility as a case manager and practitioner of quality improvement, allowing you to better contribute to your organization and advance your profession.

Case management system features

The right case management should help departments like IT, procurement, or HR track incidents, conduct investigations, share information, meet deadlines, and report on cases. 

The following list contains key features to look for in a case management system:

  • Multi-user access
  • Role-based access
  • Data analysis tools
  • Centralized database
  • Configurable and flexible
  • Case-linking capabilities
  • Stringent security standards
  • Exceptional service and support
  • Workflow and scheduling capabilities

Real-world case management example

When Netflix was founded in 1997, the company offered a monthly subscription to physically deliver movies to customers. At the time, it competed successfully against movie rental companies like Blockbuster by eliminating the need to go to a store or pay late fees.

In 2007, Netflix launched its streaming services, eliminating wait times for physical media in the mail by making many films instantly available. But this decision wasn’t made overnight.

Effective case management revealed to Netflix that it needed to offer more content online to continue to meet its customers’ needs. While this transition led to a temporary loss of subscribers, Netflix revolutionized the new era of streaming media, and (as of October 2023) has a global subscriber base of 247 million.

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