Secure form filling from home frees social workers for client contact
Swindon Borough Council is running a pilot project in which social workers use wireless tablet PCs to input data remotely. The aim is to improve security of data and reduce the amount of overtime worked by assessment staff.
The trial involves the social work department using tablet PCs to input assessment data about young people, straight into the council's database. This can be done from the social worker's home or in the field, with data passing through a secure Citrix remote access system.
The council is an early adopter of Citrix Access Suite 4.0, the latest version of Citrix's thin client software architecture previously called Metaframe.
The data is stored on an Oracle database, called Swift, which was built by technology partner Anite.
The council uses an electronic version of the single assessment process - a long form that social workers and other health care and medical professionals are required by the Department of Health to complete.
As well as tablet PCs, the system uses wireless 3G cards, enabling staff to file the electronic forms quickly from external locations.
"Now social workers can use a tablet PC to read information back to the client while they are with them, and see if it is correct," said David Titcombe, the council's ICT strategy and project manager for social services.
Titcombe added that social workers file between two and five assessments a day, and the tablet PC system has reduced the time they spend in the office, saving them from having to come in late in the evening to complete their paperwork.
The council currently has five 3G cards and several tablet PCs. "We have 240 staff that we can give them to, including 149 qualified social workers," said Titcombe. Swindon has 1,300 staff in social services alone.
He added that the existing paper-based and online form systems have had problems. For example, some social workers have not had the time or the means to complete a form at the point of assessment or within office hours.
More problems have arisen when they have had to take forms home, or complete them later, as there is a danger they may forget important information. Also, staff completing forms online from home via insecure PCs is a problem because of the sensitive nature of the data, said Titcombe.
This was first published in July 2005