Somerset County Council has cut back-office administration costs by equipping social workers with tablet PCs.
Social workers in the council's occupational therapy service, who work with adults who need specialised assistance and equipment to live independently, no longer have to return to council offices to process orders for equipment.
The council said, "There has been an increase in the number of completed assessments per occupational therapist per week due to reductions in the time required for both travel and paperwork."
Social care managers have also measured a reduction in the time taken for equipment to be delivered and installed in people's homes.
The tablet PCs connect to Somerset County Council's main social service application, called Swift, using GPRS.
The council developed a bespoke application to run on the tablet PCs that automatically fills in 10 of the documents most frequently used by the occupational therapists. The forms are pre-populated with information downloaded from Swift.
Among these forms, the occupational therapists have a pre-populated document for assessing the needs of the people they see that complies with central government regulations that require local authorities to follow a single assessment process designed by the Department of Health.
The county council can send some of the information gathered by the occupational therapists electronically to any of the seven district councils in Somerset, which may need the data to provide services to people living in their catchment areas.
Council workers have been given smart tokens from security software supplier RSA to access the mobile applications on the tablet PCs. The tokens randomly generate single-use passcodes, which make it more difficult for unauthorised people to gain access to the personal information held in the mobile applications.
Somerset County Council has also deployed the catalogue of its equipment supplier on the tablet PCs. With the Medequip catalogue on the devices, occupational therapists can show the people that will use the equipment what they are ordering before they complete the transaction.
The project to provide occupational therapists with mobile access to applications has also enabled Somerset to meet tighter performance targets set by central government, said the council.
Comment on this article: firstname.lastname@example.org
This was first published in May 2007