Tech Language for Regulators

January 20, 2020 by Caroline Miller

Defining Case Management

Tech Language for Regulators

Language connects us as human beings. It holds and fosters the knowledge that has been acquired since the beginning of time. It is that important.¹

The regulatory community has its own nature, culture, and language. It considers public trust its core, and accountability frameworks its foundation. Regulators share a common understanding of core terms that connect them. Terms like Entry to Practice, Competencies, Accreditation, License Renewal, Reciprocity, Standards of Practice, Discipline, Complaints, Investigations, Central Agency, Autonomous Board, Scope of Practice—all of these have very specific meanings which are widely understood and accepted. But more and more, we’re asking regulators to understand a whole different language: the language of technology.

This isn’t an easy thing to do. The lexicon for the technology industry is vastly different than that of the regulatory community. While the concepts of Case Management, Commercial Off the Shelf, and Business Process Management are technology ideas that could be very useful to regulators, the terms themselves are not widely used in the regulatory community. Add in acronyms and the complicated, ever-evolving nature of technology, and the whole conversation becomes overwhelming.

In an effort to reduce the complexity around technology, over the next couple of months, we’ll look at a few common terms. I’ll demystify the what, the why, and the how, and give you practical examples of how they apply in the regulatory community. We’ll start with case management.

Case Management: Functional Definition

Case management is a way to track and use all of the data you need to run your agency or division.

First, we should define what we mean by a case. A case is information. A case file aggregates data that a knowledge worker uses to reach a successful resolution. Examples of cases might include:

  • The background investigation of an employment candidate
  • The professional credentialing of a licensed professional
  • A workplace harassment complaint
  • An application for state or federal benefits
  • An appeal when an application for benefits has been denied

In addition, a case “is likely to involve multiple persons inside and outside of the organization, with varying relationships to each other, as well as multiple documents and messages,” according to the Association for Information and Image Management.²

Case management, then, is the way to handle all of the processes and data to get each of these cases to a successful resolution. And most, if not all, regulatory agencies use a case management approach. We just may call it a different name, and many of us may still be doing things manually.

And that’s where the technology comes in. A case management solution is a software application that helps you organize data, tasks, regulations, and interactions in order to resolve cases. In effect, it allows you to “make fewer trips to the electronic filing cabinet” by tracking a great deal of information in one centralized place, and then using that information to accomplish your tasks.

Using a case management solution ensures that your entire staff has access to complete, consistent information. Aside from basic biographical information (names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.) the solution allows you to view and instantly retrieve history entries and documents related to a specific person, entity or case. And it lets you automate many of the processes that you are responsible for overseeing, such as documentation handling.

Document handling and document generation capability are very important defining factors of a case management system; the better ones have very powerful document generation capabilities built right in. In just a few mouse-clicks, some case management systems can create complex documents right in your word processor with the pertinent case data merged in automatically.

Having your documents and case data integrated into a single system gives you several significant advantages over hard copy or custom Excel spreadsheets. The first is shared access; if you are relying on hardcopy files, you must deal with the physical reality of possession. If one person has the file, it means nobody else has it, and thus nobody else can work on that file (copies aside). A case management system eliminates this problem by allowing all users on a network to share the same information at the same time, and information is consistently updated to all staffers.

Case Management: What it Means for Regulators

A case management system gives you a central warehouse of information, detailing each and every transaction linked with a licensee or business entity, including: initial application and all documents and attestations required; renewal; continuing education; complaints, investigations, and discipline findings; and fines throughout the entire lifecycle of the licensee or business entity. 

And it isn’t just information storage, but also automation of the processes that use the information. Regulatory agencies around the country are moving to case management systems in order to handle licensing status determination and administration of regulatory programs. Case management systems enable occupational and professional regulators to deploy automated licensing and enforcement processes, public portals, and mobile support for inspections.

This results of these activities are collected and stored, shared among staff and, as appropriate, the board members, the public, and other stakeholders. The accuracy of this information is critical as it is often used to develop budgets, strategy, financial accountability, provide a 30,000-foot view of the industry, and consider changes over time.  In certain areas, investigations for example, a chronology of events, documentation, and decisions are an important part of managing information. In some instances, only certain personnel have the permission or authority to view certain documents or processes in a case. 

Case management is just one of the many terms that regulators must learn in order to take advantage of the array of technological solutions out there to help them do their jobs. Language connects us as human beings; if we don’t share a common understanding of the words we are using, it will be a barrier to our connection and our success.

¹Words Connect Us: A Reflection of Why Language Matters 01/14/2015 Laura Sharp, Recovering Voices.

²“What is Case Management,” Association for Information and Image Management

Caroline Miller is Tyler Technologies' Business Development Executive, State Government. Check back here for more from her on how common technology terms apply to the regulatory community.

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