211 Services in Alberta, Canada Move To iCarol
211 services in Alberta are composed of two non-profit help lines chartered with answering information and referral (I&R) phone calls from residents of Calgary, Cochrane, Edmonton, Strathcona County, Parkland County, City of Leduc and Leduc County. In addition to provinding the 211 service, the 211 call centres (Distress Centre Calgary and The Support Network in Edmonton) also offer other services like crisis / distress lines and counseling.
Residents simply dial 211 on their phone to be routed to the best available specialist. After expressing their human and social services needs, the I&R specialist uses iCarol to find any of thousands of resources which address their needs and for which they are eligible. At a population of 3.7 million, Alberta is the largest of Canada’s prairie provinces and the fourth largest in the country.
The opportunity: A single, well-integrated software system with excellent 211 capabilities, as well as the capacity to track aspects of other services.
In the past, the Edmonton and Calgary used several different software packages (some “home built”) to log calls (211 and otherwise), manage their referral databases, make referrals, run statistics, manage staff and volunteers and track their shift schedule. That setup presented numerous difficulties, such as:
- People had to use 2 or more software packages, even on the same call, just to serve the client.
- Their referral database InformAlberta (operated by another entity, Alberta Health Services) was one of these software packages and, while good, it was not integrated with their call logging software.
- Comprehensive statistics were difficult or impossible to compile.
- Their desire to add new services, like live chat or messaging, would mean adding yet more software packages to the mix.
The solution: Migrate to iCarol for a single solution to meet the breadth of their needs.
The more the call centre directors learned about iCarol, the more excited they became. Its renowned support of the AIRS standards and taxonomy (both essential for 211 help lines) was enticing enough. But the ability to manage the rest of their service offerings from one system was a dream come true. Their setup includes:
- An autonomous, fully customized iCarol system for each call centre for all their duties – 211 and otherwise
- A fully-shared, province-wide referral database natively embedded into each iCarol system
- Robust staff and volunteer management, shift scheduling, chatboards and event calendars
- Introduction of live chat services directly from some of their websites
- Daily importation of the externally-hosted referral database from InformAlberta (see below)
Daily importation of the external InformAlberta referral database
One special aspect of this project is that InformAlberta is a database owned and operated by Alberta Health Services external to the 211 network. To make the call-taking and referral process as seamless as possible, it would have to be imported into iCarol, and done on a daily basis so that the information was as current as possible.
The iCarol team worked extensively with the call centres and Alberta Health Services (InformAlberta) staff to craft an import tool using the AIRS XML 3.0 standard file format to make these daily imports. Now those imports occur automatically on a daily basis. In the future, the team will be exploring a real-time (instead of daily) transfer to keep the information that much more current in iCarol.