Making case management effective, flexible and transparent  

Digital case management systems should become more intelligent and flexible so that both case workers and clients are provided better and more transparent service, despite the increasingly complex legislation. Innovation Fund Denmark invests DKK 16 million in the research project Ecoknow, which links technology and practice of adaptive case management.

Thomas HildebrandtComputer Science DepartmentResearche-governmentCollaborationsgrants

Case workers and clients in the Danish municipalities struggle with IT systems that cannot take individual needs into account and which are difficult to adapt to the ever-changing laws. The inflexible systems are expensive to maintain and make it difficult for the case workers to provide citizens with good plans of action.
 
The researchers and partners behind the project Ecoknow aim to change that. During the project period, they’ll develop digital solutions that’ll permit an easy integration of law changes on a regular basis and will let case workers benefit from the big amount of data from previous cases.
 
Just like a GPS that provides you with a new route if the proposed route isn´t followed, the case management systems should be able to suggest new plans of action when a relevant law gets changed or if the needs of the client changes during the process, due to long-term sickness etc.
 
- It’s crucial that the IT systems support the case workers – and not the other way around. We know for instance that case workers have very limited time to prepare when they plan the pathways to lead unemployed people to jobs. And it’s quite a challenge to take the clients´ skills and disabilities into account while ensuring that the plan is compliant with the laws that often get changed, says principal investigator of Ecoknow, associate professor at The IT University of Copenhagen, Thomas Hildebrandt.
 
In practice, it’s about developing a system that reads the patterns in data from the experiences of thousands of case workers and citizens. Based on this data, from the good and the bad experiences, the new system will be able to provide the case worker and citizen with useful recommendations. The new intelligent and adaptable IT systems will make case management both better and cheaper because the process will be faster and more flexible. Thomas Hildebrandt expects the municipalities to be able to cut half of their budgets for development and maintainability of case management systems.
 
- Furthermore, citizens will benefit from the transparency and opportunity to influence the decision-making because it will be easier for both case workers and citizens to get an overview of each case. This will especially make a difference in cases where the case worker gets replaced during the process, says Thomas Hildebrandt and refers to a project conducted by Væksthusets Forskningscenter which suggests that the chance of getting a job decreases with 22 percent if the case worker gets replaced.
 
Understandability is key
A key challenge in Ecoknow project is to make the technology understandable so that the lawyers and case workers in the municipalities can use the new system and maintain it. Therefore, the workflows in the municipalities and the use of the developed technologies will be studied during the project period. Both the municipalities, the lawyers, citizens and case workers will participate in this development.
 
In the last part of the project period, the Ecoknow partners will explore the potential of the technology in other countries and sectors, for example for case management systems in the finance and health sectors.  
 
The role of the partners
The foundation of Ecoknow is the new DCR Graphs technology for digital knowledge work developed by Thomas Hildebrandt’s research group in collaboration with the company Exformatics. The technology has been integrated in the case management system KMD WorkZone which is used by many public institutions. Ecoknow combines this technology with big data analysis in order to create an intelligent and evidence-based navigation through the ever-changing landscape of new laws and regulations.
 
During the project period the technology will be integrated in Exformatic’s solutions for knowledge workers and in KMD’s Momentum solution used by the Danish job centers. Testing the system in the environments where it’s meant to be used, provides the researchers with the opportunity to study the efficiency and the usability in collaboration with users and experts from the two Danish municipalities; Syddjurs municipality and Copenhagen municipality, the Danish association for social case workers; Dansk Socialrådgiverforening and the two companies Kammeradvokaten og Globeteam.    
 
For further information:
Thomas Hildebrandt, associate professor, mobile (+45) 31 42 52 79, email hilde@itu.dk 
Jari Kickbusch, research communication officer, mobile (+45) 2248 28 27, email jark@itu.dk
 
Total budget of the project: DKK 25 million.
Innovation Fund Denmark: DKK 16 million.
 
Project partners:
 
IT University of Copenhagen
Technical University of Denmark
Copenhagen University
Exformatics
KMD
Syddjurs kommune
Københavns kommune
Dansk Socialrådgiverforening
Kammeradvokaten
Globeteam
MAPS (Italy)