Those working in the social service field understand the importance of being an advocate for their clients. What is just as important, if not more, is teaching clients how to advocate for themselves. Self-advocacy is a way for clients to become more empowered, independent, and educated when it comes to their treatment. Foothold Technology recognizes the value of self-advocacy and how it impacts client outcomes, and AWARDS provides many opportunities for a client to participate in, and become better informed about, the services they are receiving.
One example of this is in the AWARDS Medical Module. In this module, there are various patient education options that detail specific medications, diagnoses, and diagnostic tests. A caseworker can provide this information to the client which can increase their knowledge of the treatment they’re receiving. A client will be able to read about side effects of a medication, the criteria for certain diagnoses, and how certain diagnostic tests are performed. Having the client be educated on his/her own treatment empowers them to develop a personal understanding and ask thoughtful questions about their medical information.
Service plans, which are already a collaborative process between caseworker and consumer, become even more so within AWARDS. When reviewing the progress of the previous service plans’ goals, there is a text box available for consumer comments. This affords the client an opportunity to document how they feel they did in regard to attaining their goals. This gives the client a sense of ownership of the plan that includes their own input. When a client feels they are a part of the decision making that affects their lives, they may be more likely to stay on track.
Another example of client advocacy in AWARDS is consent tracking. Consents to speak with family, doctors, caseworkers, or other types of providers can be documented within AWARDS. How does consent tracking relate to client advocacy? Some clients may not know that they can advocate for themselves and withdraw consents that they had previously given. Within AWARDS, “End Dates” can be filled in for consents that clients wish to rescind. In the Medical module, there is a Consents Form feature that can be used to generate and print consent for release of information forms. This also includes a list of people the client has cancelled permission to release information to, by utilizing the End Dates. This form provides consumers a visual aid to control who speaks to whom in regards to their services.
One of the most interesting ways AWARDS encourages clients to advocate on their own behalf is the Client Login feature. This allows clients to have their own logins into the AWARDS database. This functionality (which must be requested by an agency) allows clients to do multiple things in their own records; view Face Sheet and Service Plans in read-only mode, write progress notes, mark attendance in groups, and set-up an electronic signature. This aspect in AWARDS provides the client the most autonomy within the application, which is of course, the heart of advocacy. Luckily, AWARDS has tools in place to support caseworkers who already work with clients in developing these important self-advocacy skills.