New system delivers improved productivity
Head of Welfare Finland
The City of Espoo, the second largest city and municipality in Finland, had been considering how to streamline the income support process and make it more efficient through digitalization. The previous process meant customer applications were scanned into the social welfare system and subsequent information was passed on to the relevant teams. There was also a need for an electronic payment process to be integrated into the system.
In connection to the implementation of the Lifecare Desktop, the decision was taken to seize the opportunity to fully digitalize the payment process. The Lifecare Desktop, with the My Reminders functionality, was implemented to support the needs of social care with the potential and ability to streamline operations quickly.. The solution guides the social care professional, providing clear, straightforward support with a user interface aligned with workflows.
The City of Espoo employees around 90 professionals in adult social care, most of whom are social workers or care workers. Espoo’s adult social workers handle monthly about 2,000 income support applications and about 1,000 applications under the Social Welfare Act. Additionally, they also offer services on aftercare, refuge and immigrant services, and senior counselling and service guidance (under the service name Nestori).
Acceleration of payment process using a real-time digital tool
Digitalization of the income support process resulted in improved productivity using the same number of resources
Less dependence on individual resources and a more even distribution of work, also opened up the possibility of remote work
“When we started using the Lifecare Desktop and the My Reminders functionality, we didn’t need to send employees from place to place. The payment workstation used to be located in the middle of the office for the purpose of being easily accessible for everyone, but now it doesn’t matter. All information flows digitally”, commented Kirsi Sucksdorff, Head of Adult Social Work Office Services and Lina Teir-Karhu, a senior social worker at Espoo’s social services.
“We had been considering how to digitalize our old analogue income support process for quite a long time. In the past we had to scan paper applications into the system and then pass this information along to the relevant teams. Everything was done manually but we really had a motivation to digitalize for a long time.” Sucksdorff said.
During the Lifecare Desktop training, the team discussed the challenge with TietoEVRY’s Antti Lankinen who then proposed a simple solution for handling the payment process completely electronically. The proposal was music to their ears and the team then worked together to consider what policy changes would be required to facilitate the introduction of the solution.
“It was important that any digital solution we used worked in real time. The TietoEVRY solution was clear and simple. I enjoy working with it.” Sucksdorff explained.
A step-by-step process made the transition to the new system easy for all employees.
Kirsi Sucksdorff noted that the same number of employees can now manage more work, productivity has improved but the need for urgency has not increased. As efficiency increases, the adult social care team has been able to take on many of the payments for immigrant services, Nestori, and aftercare services.
“Payment information is now constantly updated in real time and follows a clear format and order. We’ve seen productivity improve but we are not pressed for time”, said Sucksdorff and Teir-Harhu.
Since the Social Welfare Act changed in 2015, and as more individuals and organisations have become familiar with the system the number of applications has increased. All applications received are assessed and a decision is made.
The payment process is updated as decisions are marked and saved as ‘final’, facilitating and achieving the smooth transfer of digital papers and decisions from one place to another.
“Previously, to find an application and attachments you had to search across multiple teams and in the archive. Paper applications were also stored in multiple physical locations which made it time consuming to retrieve them. Now, searching is nearly instantaneous, you can trust the system. If the application isn’t found in the digital search, it doesn’t exist.” Lina Teir-Karhu stated.
Kirsi Sucksdorff (standing) and Lina Teir-Karhu say that the new Lifecare Desktop allows the same number of employees to deliver more work, without increasing the urgency or rush.
The new system has also made it possible for many employees in the social care system to work remotely, for example, for those handling benefit payments. The ambition is to extend this further. Social workers and care workers are now able to combine different work phases and tasks into one with the aid of the digital tools. This can be done remotely and frees up time for them to focus on delivering services.
In addition to improved productivity and remote access, the solution is adding value through flexibility. The system allows for Espoo to deliver services across a wider scope of fields. Additionally, work is no longer dependent on individuals, but can be distributed across resources more evenly.
The service promise has also been improved. Previously, a payment needed to be scheduled by midday to be included in the same day payment schedule. Now there is the time and ability to process nearly all of the applications received within the same payment schedule.
“Now that we are on top of the payment schedule all the time, if we see a peak or lull in the system, we can move additional resources accordingly to cover the workflow.” Sucksdorff noted.
The challenge in the social work ecosystem is that utilization of digital self-service tools is only just over 50 percent. This means, that half of the customers do not use digital services at all. While various attempts have bene made to increase utilization rates, according to Lina Teir-Karhu, it has not been possible to migrate everyone to digital services.
“Handwritten paper applications are often difficult to read and are time consuming. Electronic applications are processed faster and more accurate. Our hope is that gradually, more and more users will switch to online applications.” Teir-Karhu concluded.
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