Aurora Family Service

All Aboard: How one agency’s selection process prepared it for success

Who: Aurora Family Service
Location: Milwaukee, WI
Services: Mental Health
Year Founded: 1882
Annual Operating Budget: $6 million

The Situation: Searching for one system to unite multiple programs

In 2008, Aurora Family Service pulled together a team to search for a documentation system that could track its multiple family counseling and community service programs. To ensure a good fit for the entire agency, the team included members from the administrative, clinical, and IT departments as well as the agency’s Executive Director, Jane Pirsig. The team first considered using the EMR systems of its parent organization, Aurora Health Care. Says Jim Jahnke, Sr. Financial Analyst at Aurora, “The primary care systems wouldn’t capture what we need for our mental health services.” Adapting the system was not an option. “We even thought about building our own, but each of our programs needs to report in different ways, and about different information.”

The Solution: The flexibility of reporting in AWARDS Software

Considering the maintenance that would be required by ongoing changes to regulations and technology, the team soon determined that a homegrown system would take up too many resources, and agreed to search for a specialized behavioral healthcare software system. “Flexibility and adaptability were very important to us,” Jahnke says. After examining more than 10 systems, “we focused on the system’s ability to work for the largest number of our programs, and went with Foothold [AWARDS]…Other factors that sold us were the fact that AWARDS is web-based, so we wouldn’t have to support another software system. Also, AWARDS has billing and accounts receivable functions, which would streamline our billing processes.”

The Result: A Smooth Implementation

Members of the search team, including Executive Director Pirsig, became the core of the implementation team, leading the roll-out of AWARDS across the agency. Says Laura Marshall, a Senior Project Manager with Foothold, “Aurora’s implementation was one of the most well-coordinated and efficient that I have participated in. The range of departments and skills represented brought the needed mix of knowledge and authority to the process.” Furthermore, she adds, “the ED’s participation was instrumental. Executives who advocate for short-term pain for long-term gain are insuring a win for their agency.” Remarks Pirsig, “We made it a priority to communicate with staff how important it was to make this transition, focusing on the ways the new system would ease everyone’s day-to-day work and move the organization forward in the long term.”

“We made it a priority to communicate with staff how important it was to make this transition, focusing on the ways the new system would ease everyone’s day-to-day work and move the organization forward in the long term.” -Jane Pirsig, Executive Director, Aurora Family Service