Parkinson’s is the second biggest neurodegenerative condition (Alzheimer’s takes the unwanted first position) and it currently has no cure. This means for the 18,000 people diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year, along with the 148,000 people who already have the condition, it’s imperative to offer them and their loved ones the right support at the moment it’s needed, whether that’s medical or emotional support, or advice on employment and benefits.
The problem in the UK is that the NHS has insufficient resources to offer this much-needed support. This is where Parkinson’s UK steps in, the charity established in 1969 to provide better care, treatment and quality of life to those with the illness. Shaun Le Geyt, CIO at Parkinson’s UK, explains:
What you can expect from the NHS every year is about 15 minutes consultation. So we bridge the gap basically.
That gap is bridged by 120 local advisors plus 20 staff who run the confidential helpline – a small team supporting the circa 150,000 diagnosed sufferers, along with their family and friends who might also call. With two people across the UK finding out they have Parkinson’s every hour, and a 20% growth in diagnoses expected by 2025, Parkinson’s UK realised it needed to expand its Information & Support services to ensure it could keep providing the right information at the right time, in the right way. Le Geyt explains:
Everybody's experience with Parkinson's is unique. What that means is that we need to tailor the advice so we give people a personal journey in terms of what they experience and the information we hand out.
Under the old way of working, this tailored service was tricky to achieve. The organisation was run on inefficient, manual processes and had a lack of visibility on metrics, partly down to insufficient data being available. Patient care was based on isolated interactions between staff and clients, and there was a fear of new technology among staff. Le Geyt recalls:
We had very many manual processes, written in spreadsheets and Word documents. So when you're trying to find out the most common things that people are coming to you for, it’s a really difficult thing to do We did need to be comfortable about information security, so there were some concerns there and across the organization there was a fear of new technology. I think the way systems have been rolled out previously was probably not a best practice way, it was a drive for shiny things rather than going out and identifying a solution based on real needs. Most of the local advisors have a healthcare background, so there was a fear that the new technology could be a barrier in delivering that care, that it would take away from the time that they spend with people.
Parkinson’s UK started doing a search for a product that could fit its exact needs, but the closest application it found had a distinctly 1980s look and feel, so wasn’t ideal for the user experience that was so vital in this project. Based on conversations with other charities going through a similar digital transformation, Parkinson’s UK opted for Bluewolf as its technology partner for the project and Salesforce Service Cloud as the technology, based on ease of use, intuitive UI, and the possibilities and potential the charity saw in using the platform going forward. Le Geyt adds:
Being honest, we didn't do this on cost alone. What was important for us is we have the right solution that works for people with Parkinson’s, we weren't willing to compromise on those needs.
Service Cloud was rolled out in just 10 weeks for the whole project. Originally itt was going to be just eight weeks, but as suggestions started coming in from the users during the deployment phase, two weeks were added on to start working through some of the ideas.
The discovery process took two weeks, thanks to the prep work undertaken by Parkinson’s ahead of the project, followed by one week for design, and four weeks of building tests. Christina Aminzadeh, associate partner at Bluewolf, an IBM Company, explains:
We were building and people were looking at things and that really helped with the adoption. In some of the users, you have champions who knew that they were responsible for different parts of the business. They were able to sit alongside and see what we were building and make sure that it was fitting the needs. So that also then helped make the training and the adoption side of things much shorter.
I'd say from a project perspective, when you're looking at implementing these projects, have champions who can work with the partner and work with Salesforce to really understand what it is that's going to be delivered at the end of it. Because I think sometimes that's when people get into challenges; IT might work in a box and be working with the partner to deliver things and when it gets time to launch it out to the end users, people don't know what it is, they haven't seen it before.
Bluewolf also did a bit of customization to Service Cloud to introduce the concept of queuing. Any calls coming in around benefits, for example, are put into a benefits queue, so staff can start to track what types of calls they’re getting, and identify where they need more support and more people.
As of February, Parkinson’s UK was fully live on Service Cloud. All user calls are now managed via the service console, which provides a summary page that all the local advisors can see to keep track of queries and better support callers. Aminzadeh adds
In the past, these things were done on an isolated basis. So whoever was calling in, the person on the phone didn't know who they were, they didn't have all the background, they didn't know maybe it's the second time they've called or it's the wife of somebody who has Parkinson's. What this console does is give a picture of what's happening, all the different enquiries that have come in.
As client records are no longer paper based, rather than having to hand over a physical package between advisors working with the same person, now they're starting to build the history in Chatter or Files or on the activity side of Service Cloud. Advisors can see the existing benefits clients might have, if they’ve been referred before or who their carer is all in one place.
Three months after go live, Parkinson’s UK is happy with the results so far. Le Geyt says:
We really do have data now. From a service manager point of view, there’s visibility of what the team's doing, the types of cases, there’s that handover as well to local advisors. So a call comes into the confidential helpline and it’s passed to a local advisor. It’s instant, they don't have to package anything up and send it in the post.
As the team is able to quickly see a caller’s past history, the client feels they’re known to the advisor and are getting a more tailored service.
Despite the initial fears about technology posing a barrier to advisors being able to offer the best support and advice to clients, the feedback on the new tool has been positive. Le Geyt explains:
When we showed them that we could do things in a much more professional way, that their requirements were understood and actually we had the solution that really met their needs, it gave them confidence. That was an outcome we hadn't expected.
Aminzadeh has advice for other organisations considering a technology update, recalling Le Geyt’s original misgivings over the project:
You were saying, we don't know if Salesforce is the right solution for us because it's going to take months if not longer, and we have a shorter timeline to roll things out, and it’s this big huge CRM machine, and we don't know if it's right for the non-profit sector. It was through the conversations, seeing the Non-profit Success Pack, seeing some of the other stories, this is the message to take.
If you're a non-profit starting out, it doesn't have to be a huge project, you don't have to migrate all the data. You can, and some people would prefer to do everything big bang, but those tend not to be the better projects. Get smaller chunks, get people using the system. When they start using it, they love it.