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
Our customers take part in a variety of collaborative relationships with fellow not-for-profit agencies, governmental institutions, private companies, and others. This often requires sharing of information that they input and store in iCarol, and commonly includes (but isn’t limited to!) resource/referral information, or client interaction data collected in a Contact Record (aka Call Report Form). We heartily support such collaborations because they are the key not only to an agency thriving, but these partnerships also foster a continuum of care model that help create healthier, more connected communities. So we are always looking for ways we can encourage these partnerships and make them possible and easier to engage in using iCarol.
There are a number of ways our customers can share Contact Record data. Protecting confidential information is paramount and one should always be sure they are following their organization’s policies, protocols, and any pertinent regulations when sharing this data. Some examples of ways that our customers share Contact Record information include exporting data tables from iCarol to hand them over to a partner, printing records for faxing or hard copy delivery and storage, or using our Contact Record Outbound API to transmit data to their partner’s web service. The latest way we have enabled Contact Record sharing is be creating a feature that allows authorized personnel to send an encrypted email with a password protected PDF file of the Contact Record, right within the iCarol system.
In what scenarios might you want to encrypt and email a Contact Record?
- When sending a warm referral to another agency
- When sending Contact Records to a funder who requires a copy of the contact
- While referring a Mobile Crisis Intake to a crisis specialist on duty
- For sending the details of a high risk interaction to the counselor or supervisor on duty so they can follow up
Here are a few other highlights and things to know about this feature:
You control who can use it
Access is granted in a user’s Advanced Security Settings, giving you granular control over who can and cannot email Contact Records.
How to access
The ability to send a Contact Record by email will appear whenever you create a PDF of a Contact Record, whether it is a single PDF or a batch of PDFs compiled within the Advanced Search on the main Calls page. First you must request that the PDF be made.
Once you click the “Make PDF” button, the options to print the PDF or send it in an encrypted email appear.
PDFs sent using this feature can be password protected so that the recipient must enter the correct password before viewing the PDF file, further securing sensitive information. The stronger and more complex the password, the better protection for your PDF to ensure only authorized recipients can view it.
Create a template
If the emailed Contact Records will regularly go to the same recipient(s), use the same subject line, body text, etc., you can create a template. This can save data entry time when preparing the email, and keep a consistent message if you are emailing records as a part of a specific contract or program at your organization. A single template can be created by taking the following steps:
Once the template is created, this information will be available automatically each time you create a PDF.
- From the left main menu of iCarol, click on ‘Admin Tools’
- Click the ‘Calls’ tab
- Click the link titled ‘Edit the template used for sending contact records by email’ and follow the instructions on the next page to create the template
There are no additional costs to turn on and use this feature, it is included and available to all of our subscribers who use Contact Records. For more information, please see the Help Articles in the Help section of your iCarol system. If you have additional questions or need assistance, please open a case with the Support Team.
In the past we’ve talked about APIs and how they help you do more with your data, especially in existing or potential partnerships. To briefly review, API stands for Application Program Interface, and it allows electronic systems to interact with each other without the need for the direct human intervention. That is, with an API no person needs to direct data traffic between two systems — the systems just talk directly to each other behind the scenes.
Much of iCarol’s discussion regarding APIs so far has been in reference to our Resource API, which allows you to take your resource data and use it to create custom searchable websites, build mobile apps, or contribute resource data to other projects. For instance, we have customers who have partnered with local libraries, hospitals and prisons to host their community’s service inventory on the partner’s website. Rather than the partner having to build and curate their own resource database, they pay their local Information and Referral service who uses iCarol to provide the information.
One thing is for certain: APIs are a leading way for our clients to harness their data and open up new avenues for partnerships and revenue streams. Now, this exciting technology is available for another area within the iCarol suite: Contact Records (a.k.a. Call Reports).
The Contact Record Outbound API provides a way for you to take the data from a submitted Contact Record and push it to an awaiting “restful API web service” or “webhook,” which would typically be owned or provided by the entity you are working with. The Contact Record data is pushed or transmitted one way.
How could you use this new data sharing capability at your organization? A few ideas:
- Send all the contact record data you collect to a funder or partner’s system as part of your contracted service.
- Send just the contact record data you collect in specific forms, such as intake forms, when contracted to provide a service for an entity such as a hospital, insurer, mobile crisis team, or other service provider.
- Send contact record data to collaborative reporting systems or dashboards for trend analysis, and data-driven community planning to influence public policy.
At iCarol, it’s one of our deeply held beliefs that your data belongs to you. We see it as part of our mission and stewardship of that data to help you harness it to do more good in your community, provide continuity of care to people in need, and enhance your relevance and marketability as a community partner and vital provider of services. The Contact Record Outbound API gives you one more way to participate in collaborative partnerships, leverage your talents to help more people, and increase your funding.
If you are an iCarol customer who would like to learn more, please open a case with our Support Team. Not a customer yet? Contact us here.
Beginning Sunday, June 3, several members of the iCarol team will be in Dallas, Texas for our annual User Group Summit followed by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems conference. In attendance will be:
Rachel Wentink, Vice President, Operations
Polly McDaniel, Director of Business Development
Crystal McEachern, Senior Product Manager
Val Kozintsev, Development Team Manager
Sean Higgins, Executive Vice President of Cityview, the division of Harris of which iCarol is now a part, will also join us for the Summit and early portion of the conference so he can learn more about the information and referral industry and meet the 2-1-1 and other I&R clients we regularly work with.
We’ll start our time in Dallas with our annual User Group Summit, on Sunday, June 3 beginning at 9am. This free, all-day iCarol training is aimed at iCarol users and prospective customers with anywhere from beginner to advanced usage experience with iCarol. The day is a chance for our team to focus in on a few key areas of iCarol capabilities and teaching our users how to leverage their iCarol system for the biggest impact.
This year we’ll present two training sessions at the Summit. Our first session of the morning is called Build a Better Picture: Using iCarol Statistics. That session will help attendees identify their reporting needs so they can then build out their contact forms and work flows to support those needs. We’ll take users through an overview of iCarol Statistics with a heavy focus on the analysis tab of reports, discuss Met and Unmet Needs reporting, and talk a bit about how to access data for more advanced reporting needs.
Following a brief break, the second session of the morning is titled Do More Together: Are You Ready? and will focus collaboration with partners. There are a multitude of ways you can use iCarol to partner with both fellow iCarol users, and outside organizations that don’t use iCarol. The session will take attendees through the tangible steps to evaluate readiness and then prepare to communicate with potential partners about collaboration. Attendees will leave with an outline and use cases to help them begin to build successful sharing relationships.
Attendees will then be released for lunch on their own, and then we’ll reconvene at 1:45pm for a traditional User Group session. All are welcome to the User Group Session, even if they did not register for the sessions held earlier in the day. In the User Group session, we’ll share a summary of the enhancements made to iCarol in the previous year, and speak to the upcoming developments in the works and coming soon. We’ll gain feedback from attendees and use their account of trends, themes, and common requests to help us prioritize upcoming and future developments that will best meet the needs of our customers.
If you’re heading to Dallas and will be in town by Sunday morning, it’s not too late to register for the User Group Summit. You can learn more and register here.
From there, the AIRS Conference sessions officially begin on Monday morning. Attendees can come visit us at booths 103 and 104 where we’ll have some items to hand out, including a number of data sheet flyers on a variety of topics of interest to conference attendees, including resource data sharing, offering centralized intake, ensuring continuity of care, dispatching mobile crisis services, and information on iCarol data privacy and security. As always we’ll welcome your questions, comments, and conversation on what’s going on at your organization. We always enjoy the opportunity to talk to you about the projects and partnerships you’re engaging in and investigate how we could potentially contribute to that.
We hope to see you in Dallas!
We’ve long promoted the idea that data sharing can help our clients build coalitions and partnerships, make a greater positive impact in their communities, and create new revenue streams for the organizations. One way we’ve adapted iCarol to make this easier for them is to build support for the Open Referral data standard in iCarol. If you like, before you read about the announcements we’ll go over in this blog, you may wish to get a refresher course on what data standards are, how they make such collaboration possible across different software systems and databases, and why Open Referral in particular has been adopted in iCarol.
Today we’re excited to announce two new and exciting iCarol Resource API enhancements, which now extends support for the Open Referral’s HSDS 1.1 schema and a full list of resources. Both of these new enhancements are designed to help you with your sharing collaborations and to access new funding opportunities.
iCarol is the first major I&R Software vendor to support emitting resource data that is fully compliant with HSDS 1.1 and the HSDA specification. For over a year iCarol subscribers have had access to downloading resource files from iCarol in the HSDS 1.0 schema, but we are pleased to now announce support for an updated HSDS 1.1 schema in the iCarol Resource API! You can read more about this schema here: Human Services Data Specification (HSDS). This schema creates a common language for software applications to share information across platforms.
Our clients in current sharing relationships using our iCarol Resource API have also asked for a way to access a full list of all resources available in their system, or even better, to filter that list by records last updated. We are happy to announce a new Resource API feature allowing a simplified, unpaged list of resources to be returned allowing your data partners to better access and use your resources in external projects.
We know that the ability to share data and to collaborate with your partners both within and outside of iCarol is important to you. Sharing resources can also open up new revenue opportunities in your communities. If you would like more information about how iCarol can help you success with your sharing and collaborative projects, contact us — we are here to help!
On the blog today we welcome Christopher Kurzum of CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ to give us an update on an exciting project called “TxtToday.” iCarol supports this project through providing the platform and assisting in some coordination in helping centers join this network. We also recently participated in their workshop about TxtToday at the NASCOD/CUSA conference in Nashville. Check out Chris’s update, below:
“TxtToday is the new national texting warmline from CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ in partnership with iCarol. We have been working closely with CONTACT The Crisis Line of Jackson, MS on a pilot program to test out the national texting portal. We have had great success in our beta testing and are planning to conduct longer tests utilizing role plays to practice “real life” scenarios.”
“We are also pleased to announce that as a result of our presentation at the NASCOD/CUSA conference, TxtToday now has two additional centers that are going to participate with us in the pilot program, which runs through the end of this year. Both the Idaho Suicide Hotline and the Family Service Association in Pennsylvania will be joining our beta testing. We are very excited to be working with them as well.”
“In the next few weeks, CONTACT of Mercer County, NJ plans on running tests with the three participating centers. We anticipate that these tests will run smoothly and help us identify any areas for improvement. Our next steps are to continue our pilot program and to also apply for grants for TxtToday. We have a number of interested centers that would like to work with us, and when grants are obtained we plan on subsidizing the cost of the network so that we may begin running the program live in early 2015.”
“We would like to thank the centers that are participating in our pilot program with us as well as iCarol for their continued support in this endeavor.”
If you’d like to learn more about TxtToday, or want to learn more about joining the network,
We have an exciting new capability to share with iCarol Messaging subscribers. You can now allow a partner center, or multiple centers, to take chats for you from within their own iCarol system.
This new ability is transparent to visitors; they will not be aware of which center is taking the chat session. Visitors will still click on your familiar Chat Now button on your website and will see your prechat survey. But during times you designate, both you and your partner center will see those visitors come in to each of your messaging queues. As usual, safeguards are in place so two people don’t accidentally take the same chat. Both centers will have access to submitted call report forms and associated real-time statistics.
The possibilities here are endless. It’s ideal for handling overflow in a disaster situation. Watch your messaging queue grow shorter and become more manageable as your partner agency takes some of your chats. You can use this feature to handle after-hours messaging visitors. Because iCarol centers are found in multiple time zones, after-hours for you might be prime time for another center, and your partner could take all of your after-hours chats. This lets you expand your hours of service without trying to staff shifts during hard-to-staff hours. Want to get really fancy? You could even designate multiple centers to handle chats that come in to a central iCarol system, effectively creating a consortium of chat centers where no single center feels overburdened or underutilized. Every partner center sees all chats and takes chats when they can — it’s load balancing at its finest. Each partner center could have their own hours of service, too, and you’d get real-time statistics.
If you’re interested but don’t have a partner center in mind, feel free to post a message on the iCarol User Community on the Dashboard to find your perfect match. We can see it now: Single Crisis Center on East Coast seeks same on West Coast for meaningful after-hours relationship…looking for good listening skills, compassion, and ability to read between the lines. 🙂