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Helplines and Contact Centers Preparing for Coronavirus Response

image of coronavirus

Like many of you, we are closely watching developments related to novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, while cases emerge around the world and concerns about the virus intensify.

We recognize that many of our customer organizations have a critical role to play when incidents like these arise. Because of their earned reputations as trustworthy sources of information and support, local helplines and contact centers are often relied upon to engage with their communities and provide reassurance, emotional support, reliable information, and referrals to resources.

Based on our experiences working with our customers during past natural and manmade disasters, you may consider some of the following actions for your organization:

  • Keep relevant, accurate information readily available to give out to your clients as needed. The best sources of information at this time are:
  • Review your own internal disaster/emergency incident policies and procedures to maintain continuity of operations.
  • Familiarize yourself with your local and state agencies that may provide direct services and assistance, such as local Departments of Health and Human Services, and ensure that referral database information is up-to-date for these agencies.
  • Network with your contacts at the aforementioned agencies to remind them of the services you provide and request that your organization be kept abreast of any developments or actions they plan to take, so you can assist in their efforts to inform the public.
  • Consider what data collection elements should be added to your iCarol Contact Form so that any contacts about Coronavirus can be tracked and documented in case you are asked to report on this information.
  • Enable client self-service by including information about your agency’s role, as well as links to official sources of information, on your organization’s website and social media presence.
  • Direct callers to the right extension or audio message containing Coronavirus information by setting up an option in your IVR/Phone tree within your phone system.

iCarol is here to help you with any initiatives you might become engaged in related to Coronavirus, so that you can respond to your community’s needs quickly and efficiently. Options like:

  • Sharing your database of resource information with partner
  • Sharing Contact Forms within your network
  • Providing after-hours or collaborative Call/Chat/SMS response or reporting
and many other partnership options and integrations are readily available.

As community service, iCarol can turn on Contact Record and Resource Database sharing for up to 30 days during a qualified event for no additional cost.

Potential use cases for these kinds of partnerships are:

  • Several contact centers within a state or region need to share a single Resource Database, or view one another’s databases, so they can provide seamless referrals regardless of where in the network the client contacting them is located.
  • Collaborators share Contact Forms so they can all collect consistent data related to the disaster or event, and complete consolidated reporting.
  • When one center must shutdown services at their location and transfer their calls to a partner, their partner can access their Contact Form and Resource Database, to be sure they can fully function as that closed center’s backup until the center can reopen and resume services to their community.

The following iCarol resources may be helpful to you as you research and plan partnerships during an emergency:

ata Exporting, Sharing, and Integrations Options in iCarol

Data Exporting, Sharing, and Integrations Options in iCarol
View
iCarol eBook Do More Together A Guide to Collaborations

Do More Together: A Guide to Collaborations
Download
Using iCarol During a Disaster or Emergency

Using iCarol During a Disaster or Emergency
View

We want to take this opportunity to thank our customers for all their current and future efforts in responding to Coronavirus/ COVID-19. Your dedication to the health and wellbeing of your communities is remarkable and does not go unnoticed by us. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the iCarol Team should you have questions about using your iCarol system to respond to this incident, or need help enabling partnerships and integrations, and we will be happy to assist you.

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Happy New Year from iCarol

happy new year 2020 iCarol year in review

As another year closes and a new one begins, we naturally reflect on the accomplishments, celebrations, and important moments of 2019 while anticipating all that lies ahead. Personally, I consider the past year to be one full of progress, both in the industries we serve and here at iCarol.

All year we engage with our customers at industry conferences, forums, and in other capacities so we can be intimately aware of the topics currently affecting them and others on the horizon. This helps us to respond in kind to meet these needs with new, innovative solutions from iCarol. This year was no exception – we have seen movement across all of the industries we serve that open opportunities for our customers that we are actively exploring ways to support using iCarol software.

In the world of Information and Referral, the topics of Social Determinants of Health, Closed-loop referral, and further encouragement to engage in partnerships and collaboration all show promise for many exciting opportunities for our customers. Those working to address sexual and intimate partner violence continue to advocate for education, awareness, prevention, improved response, and justice for all those who experienced a crime. We’re excited to see their advocacy result in new legislation across several states that extend statutes of limitations for crimes, signaling better recognition of the complexities and time involved for survivors to report, and improved allocation of resources towards testing material from forensic exams, improving the chances that survivors will receive justice. In December, the United States Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted to establish a three-digit number to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the next 18 months. This is long sought after acknowledgement that mental health emergencies deserve the same attention and response as the types of emergencies reported to 9-1-1, something suicide prevention advocates have long been pressing for as a way to prevent suicide. Finally, concerns about consent for contact and data privacy continue to loom large across the world. Previous years have given us CASL in Canada and GDPR in the EU, both sweeping and comprehensive sets of regulations. Now we are beginning to see individual states and provinces taking on the task of writing their own legislation to protect consumers from having their data harvested and sold without their knowledge and consent, most notably in California’s Consumer Protection Act. We are doing all we can, and relying on our resources available through Harris Computer, to make sure that we are in full compliance with such laws, and that our customers are aware of how these laws may impact them directly.

These are just a few examples of developments impacting our customers in the year ahead. Of course we will look for any ways iCarol can support our customers through these changes, and help them carry out their life saving work. Look for more from us on our blog and webinars for updates on how we are addressing these topics.

The industries we serve aren’t the only ones experiencing progress – iCarol, too, went through positive changes in 2019. In December we moved to a new infrastructure on which the iCarol web application runs – Microsoft Azure. The migration to this new platform was the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and effort, and was not without its challenges and setbacks, but we are delighted to now be fully operational in the new environment and excited for all it means for our customers. Microsoft Azure will help us provide the most up-to-date, technologically advanced platform available. We can scale and ramp up performance as needed to meet increases in system use, whether it be due to an event, disaster, or the normal periodic demands on the system that occur for monthly exports and reporting. We are delighted not just by the way this move allows us to be more responsive to system demands, but knowing that Azure offers built-in security services that include unparalleled security intelligence. We are very excited to track data over time to show how this new infrastructure improves performance and stability, and supports the future growth in iCarol’s customer base.

I must acknowledge and express deep gratitude for the great support and patience we received from our customers during this transition and in the months prior. Our customers exercised immense trust and patience with us as we developed the plan to make this sweeping change to our infrastructure. Their user testing of the new environment, feedback, and communication with us greatly contributed to the success of this project. I cannot say enough wonderful things about our customers as essential partners with us on this journey.

There is much more to share about what was accomplished in the year behind us, and what’s on our agenda for the year ahead. Later this month we will host a “State of iCarol” webinar for our customers reviewing 2019 progress and our plans for 2020. You can also look to our blogs and email updates, and for customers, our Admin Dashboard, for more exciting information as it develops.

So, as this new year begins, I wish to thank everyone who makes it their life’s work to help others, most especially our customers, on behalf of the entire iCarol Team. Every day we see the positive impact you have on individuals and communities as a whole, and we could not be more honored to play a small part in the amazing work you do. The team at iCarol is excited to see what 2020 holds and hope for continued progress towards a safer, happier, and healthier society thanks to the work you do.

Sincerely,

Rachel Wentink
Vice President, Operations







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iCarol PRD 2.0 Enables Downloadable PDF of Resource Records

A Public Resource Directory (PRD) — the iCarol feature that empowers iCarol customers to allow their resource database to be accessed and searched on the web — is an invaluable tool, especially for 211s and other Information and Referral contact centers who need to provide their communities with modern ways to find help using self-service and other alternatives to making a phone call.

When a website visitor is browsing a PRD and collecting resources to pursue, they want easy ways to save the information so they can access it when they are offline, share it with a friend or family member who needs assistance, or simply keep a local copy of the resources they’re planning to pursue accessing services from. iCarol customers using the Public Resource Directory 2.0 version can allow public visitors to their iCarol Public Resource Directory to download a PDF of a resource record, providing another option to make the resource record information portable, accessible, and shareable.

iCarol customers using the PRD 2.0 can learn more by accessing the Help Articles knowledge base when signed in to their iCarol web application.

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iCarol attending the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging conference

n4a conference

On Sunday, July 28 and Monday, July 29, iCarol Solution Expert Team Lead, Eliisa Laitila, will be at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

n4a is a is a 501(c)(3) membership association representing America’s national network of Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) and provides a voice for the Title VI Native American aging programs. iCarol serves many organizations who are Area Agencies on Aging and therefore members of n4a, as well as other agencies in the aging and disability space. Aging and Disability Resource Centers, helplines that curb senior isolation and loneliness, and senior-focused information and referral services choose our solution because we empower them to:

  • Invite and document contacts from clients and their caregivers over a variety of communication channels: phone, in-person, web forms, and our integrated Live Chat and Texting.
  • Encourage No Wrong Door initiatives by enabling them to securely send information to partners, make warm transfers, and dispatch additional services.
  • Create and curate simple to complex community service inventories to share with clients and caregivers by phone, email, Text/SMS, and during Live Chat sessions.
  • Share searchable resource information on their own public websites, or the websites of partners such as senior centers, local libraries, and hospitals.
  • Engage in ongoing client contact to track client history and progress, ensure needs are being met, and to document customer satisfaction and outcomes.

In some cases, Area Agencies on Aging and Aging and Disability Resource Centers are using statewide software systems, and local centers may not be empowered to use iCarol as their sole solution for service delivery. However, even in these instances iCarol can still help! Some centers use iCarol to provide important capabilities not included in a statewide solution, such as live chat or SMS/texting capabilities that expand services to a wider audience, public intake or eligibility screening forms, or web searches of available community resources.

For more information on how iCarol helps senior serving agencies, click here. If you’ll be at the n4a conference, please stop by and see the team at booth 203 so that we can discuss how iCarol can help you. If you’re not in New Orleans for the conference, we welcome those interested in learning more about the iCarol solution to contact us to ask your questions or have a quick meeting to talk about your challenges so we can see how iCarol might help.

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“Shredding” Personally Identifiable Information from Contact Records

shredder shredding paper

Paper-based files of all sorts—bank statements, tax records, pay stubs, receipts—can typically be destroyed after a period of time when they will no longer be needed. Depending upon an organization’s internal policies and the laws and regulations by which they must abide, not-for-profit organizations may choose to shred some or all client files after a period of time as well.

With paper files now being digitized, and new data usually collected electronically, the concept of “shredding” takes on new meaning. Instead of literally shredding paper through a machine, electronic files are permanently deleted and erased from storage, whether they be on a hard drive or in the cloud.

One of the best practices seen highlighted within regulations such as GDPR is that an organization should only collect the data that is absolutely necessary for service delivery, especially if that data could be used to identify someone. So, unless it is essential for your organization to collect data such as a person’s name, phone number, social security number, etc. in order to carry our your work, it’s best to never collect it at all.

When you’re speaking over the phone with a person in need, you have control over whether or not to record information shared during the conversation inside your contact management system. However, if you’re communicating by Live Chat or SMS/Text Message, the person in need may share personal information with you that’d you’d prefer not be permanently documented, and if transcripts are automatically generated and stored, that private and personally identifying information may be stored whether you like it or not.

In iCarol, you have the choice whether or not your Live Chat and SMS/Texting transcripts are brought into your contact management system, or if they disappear immediately after the conversation ends, protecting personally identifiable data and allowing your organization to align such data collection and storage with your own internal policies. Further, organizations who wish to keep this information long enough for supervision purposes, but do not wish to retain it long term, have many options within the system to decide when to destroy the information. The capability to electronically “shred” potentially identifying information from your iCarol Contact Records is applied to any documentation recorded in your forms, whether it be data from calls, walk-in visits, chats, SMS/text conversations, public website intake forms, or any other interactions you document.

What gets “shredded?”

We understand that most organizations will wish to keep the data that isn’t classified as personally identifiable information, for instance demographics, issues or needs, and other non-identifying data that is important for reporting purposes. If you choose to utilize the automatic shredding function within iCarol, only certain areas of your Contact Records are effected. Text-entry fields where you might enter names, addresses, phone numbers, contact notes, etc. are deleted. Drop-down, check box, and other pick list type data is retained. For a full explanation of how to set these preferences, as well as more detailed information about what is deleted or retained, customers can sign in to iCarol, navigate to the “Help” section, and search for “Shred” within our help articles. If you’re not yet a customer and interested in learning more, please contact us!

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iCarol eBook on Building Better Collaborations

Collaboration is becoming a necessary part of not-for-profit work. Ensuring a partnership is successful for everyone involved takes careful planning that starts long before you begin the work with your fellow collaborators.

The team at iCarol has been helping our customers have smoother collaborations since the software’s creation, through a variety of tools that include sharing resource database for the purposes of both maintenance and referral giving, contact form sharing to help with after-hours outsourcing and network building, and features like the Contact Record Outbound API and Resource API that allow data to be shared directly with other applications.

For several years, before they even worked for iCarol, Senior Product Manager, Crystal McEachern, and Director of Business Development, Polly McDaniel, have offered guidance on collaboration building at industry conferences. They have over 20 years of combined experience on both sides of collaboration—as I&R professionals working with their fellow non-profit organizations and as iCarol staff members helping customers build collaborations.

Now, you can learn from their expertise through an all new eBook authored by Polly and Crystal. In it, you’ll find step-by-step guidance on building a collaboration, including tips for the planning process and important things to consider that are often overlooked. Does the prospect of writing an MOU make your head spin? We have you covered! The eBook even includes a workbook for use in your own personal collaboration planning.

Best of all, the eBook is completely free — we’re sharing it with you in hopes our experience and guidance can help you successfully deliver services to even more people in your communities.

Download the eBook

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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Funding Opportunity: Research in Transforming Health and Health Care Systems

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a funding opportunity for research studies that examine how state Medicaid programs are using managed care payment and contracting strategies to address enrollees’ social needs; the ways MCOs are responding; and the effect of these activities on enrollees, plans, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders.

The deadline for letters of intent is July 2, 2019. Full proposals are due on August 12, 2019.

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Request For Abstracts – Integrating Health and Human Services

Health Affairs, a leading peer review journal of health policy thought and research, recently issued a request for abstracts on Integrating Health and Human Services.

Description from Health Affairs website:

    Health Affairs is planning a theme issue on Integrating Health and Human Services, to be published in April 2020. We thank the Kresge Foundation for its generous support of this issue.

    The social safety net includes a variety of health and human services programs that have the potential to improve health and promote health equity by meeting health and social needs and supporting economic advancement. Some of the major barriers to realizing the potential of these programs relate to gaps in coordination across sectors.

    Our issue will explore collaboration between sectors that provide health and human services, with attention to infrastructure, policies, and practices within and across these sectors aimed at meeting the needs of the people they serve by reducing sectoral barriers.

    We plan to publish approximately 20 peer-reviewed articles including research, analyses, case studies, and commentaries from leading researchers and scholars, analysts, industry experts, and health and health care stakeholders. We encourage author teams that include representation from multiple sectors/professions… Read More

    The deadline to submit your abstract is June 24, 2019.

    Learn More

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Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network Webinar: Patient Acceptability of Social Risk Screening

On Thursday, June 20 at 1pm EDT, Social Interventions Research & Evaluation Network (siren) will hold a free webinar entitled “Patient Acceptability of Social Risk Screening.”

Wbinar description, from siren’s website:

    Recognition of the impact of social risks on health has spurred widespread interest in social risk screening across the US health care sector. Although the goal of this screening is to improve patient care and connect patients to resources to help address social risks, the sensitive nature of social risks raises concerns about the potential for screening to stigmatize patients and create opportunities for discrimination. To date few studies have evaluated patient perspectives on social risk screening. This SIREN webinar will present results of a new multi-site study (papers in progress) that examined the acceptability of the Accountable Health Communities (AHC) social risk screening tool among patients in diverse health care settings in nine states.

    Learn More and Register

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North Carolina 2-1-1 wins Inaugural AIRS I&R Innovation Award

iCarol would like to extend our congratulations to our friends and customers at North Carolina 2-1-1, who were selected to receive Innovation Awards in the Disaster Preparedness category, and also voted the overall winner of the Innovation Awards. This was the first year for these awards, given by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS).

NC 2-1-1’s submission stemmed from their experience as North Carolina’s disaster response portal, having experienced two major storms in two years’ time.

NC 2-1-1 first took on the role of disaster portal during Hurricane Matthew in 2016. During this historic storm and flooding that followed, many of the county’s 9-1-1 systems were knocked offline, causing residents to call 2-1-1 requesting life-saving intervention including water rescues necessitated by the flooding. This required quick thinking on the part of NC 2-1-1 staff and leadership to establish protocols in how to handle these calls and inform appropriate services to ensure the callers received appropriate assistance as quickly as possible.

hurricane florence precipitation While their quick action in the face of emergency surely saved many lives, there were some weaknesses in the process that became apparent. Namely, the 2-1-1 staff did not consistently receive follow-up or confirmation that NC 2-1-1’s referrals to emergency operations were successfully received and addressed, or that callers got the help they needed. In such high stakes situations, this added to the already heightened stress experienced by the 2-1-1 team during this disaster.

Post-disaster briefings provided both NC 2-1-1 and North Carolina Emergency Operations with the opportunity to talk through the situation that played out during Hurricane Matthew, and assess what should be done going forward to improve response during future disasters.

They decided that in future disasters they would implement changes, including:

  • The use of an internal web form by 2-1-1 staff that documents vital information about the caller, their location, contact information, emergency request, etc.
  • Completed forms would be sent directly to the Commander for Emergency Operations for distribution to the appropriate ground response team.
  • 2-1-1 staff would receive immediate confirmation that transmitted forms were successfully received.

The new, formalized protocols that emerged during the post-disaster briefings were quickly put to the test when Hurricane Florence arrived in September of 2018 and some 9-1-1 systems experienced technical difficulties in the face of unforgiving wind and flooding. This time, the 2-1-1 staff felt there was more accountability in the entire process thanks in part to the ability to track the movement of referrals to emergency operations. Confirmation that life threatening situations were successfully handed off from 2-1-1 to emergency services also helped reduce stress on 2-1-1 staff and lessen any unease that might have previously come with the lack of closure they received regarding the 9-1-1 calls.

We are extremely proud of the efforts of North Carolina 2-1-1 for their leadership on the topic of Disaster Response and service to the residents of North Carolina before, during, and after natural disasters. Their Innovation Award is certainly well-deserved, and we look forward to seeing them presented with the award at the AIRS Conference this week.

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