The Use and Importance of Clinical Case Management
Case management emerged during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in an effort by professional social workers to address the broad-based social problems that followed the Industrial Revolution, including, most significantly,povertyNASW, 2013). Since that time, case management has been influenced by a wide range of evidence-based practices. Therapists in virtually every field use these techniques to help their clients overcome the problems that are adversely affecting their lives. To gain a better understanding of the process, this paper reviews the relevant literature to provide a definition of case management, the rationale in support of its use, and a discussion concerning how case management can be useful as part of an overall treatment plan. In addition, based on a representative vignette involving a young couple and their minor daughter, this paper also examines how case management can help these clients, including an explanation concerning how the clients would benefit from referrals in the local community and the rationale in support of these referrals. Finally, an analysis concerning how the clients can be expected to improve if they comply with the case management plans is followed by a summary of the research and important findings about social work case management.
What is case management?
According to the definition provided by National Association of Social Workers (NASW), case management “is a process to plan, seek, advocate for, and monitor services from different social services or health care organizations and staff on behalf of a client” (NASW, 2013, p. 13). In other words, the case management process facilitates the coordination of efforts by social workers or Therapists to provide clients with individualized assistance that draw on a wide array of community-based resources. There are two distinct aspects of case management in social work that set it apart from other practices as follows:
1. Social work has a dual focus on the person and the environment and social work's biopsychosocial focus means that social workers are concerned with the interaction between the body, the mind, and the social system;
2. Social workers carry out case management by using a strengths-based approach, which focuses on strengths rather than deficits and views the community as an "oasis of resources" (Darnell, 2013, p. 124).
Having explained case management, the rationale in support of its use by social workers and other helping professions as well as the issues that can be addressed via this process are discussed further below.
Why do we use case management?
Case management is needed in order to provide clients with the multidisciplinary team-based interventions they need to address the problems that are adversely affecting the quality of their lives. Properly formulated, implemented and administered, case management provides a useful framework in which social workers can better coordinate care and ensure the continuity of that care (NASW, 2013). In this regard, NASW (2013) reports that, “Case management limits problems arising from fragmentation of services, staff turnover, and inadequate coordination among providers” (p. 13). This point is also made by Vaughn-Sarrazin and Hall (2009) who emphasize, “Case management offers continuity of services, linkage to necessary collateral services, and coordination of services that cannot be met by a single agency” (p. 436). Moreover, because social work resources are by definition scarce, case management is also used because it is a highly cost-effective strategy for developing optimal interventions for clients who present with multiple issues (Darnell, 2013). Although every individual’s needs vary, there are some common positive outcomes that can be achieved by using case management as part of the overall treatment plan as discussed below.