How RIDBC’s resilient transformation helps blind and deaf children thrive

Disruption is a problem for a lot of organisations, especially today. Dealing with the fallout of COVID-19, for example, or enforced changes to your business model, or digital transformation are major challenges on their own.

Very few organisations are equipped to successfully deal with all three – at the same time. But that’s exactly what the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) did this year, while simultaneously making a real difference to the lives of people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or vision impaired.

Without its ongoing support and provision of education, diagnostic services, therapy, and cochlear implants, thousands of people’s lives across Australia would be changed for the worse. Think of two-year-old Emily, whose tele-therapy sessions have enabled her to connect better with her grandparents, or six-year-old Sophie, who has been able to feed her love of books by learning braille.

Transforming amidst wholesale disruption

The first challenge the RIDBC identified was one of cash flow. The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) imposed enormous changes to the charity’s funding model, resulting in the timescales for receiving funds being stretched and charitable donations slowing. That was exacerbated because the RIDBC was working almost entirely on paper at this point. Service Agreements were printed and required manual signing and data entry.

“The move from block funding to client funding ultimately meant that clients were having to wait longer to get the help they needed from us. And because RIDBC was entirely paper-based at that point, we couldn’t get agreements signed and  processed quickly enough to stop that momentum from being lost,” Kristina Testore, Business Improvement Lead, RIDBC.

So, what lessons can we learn from the example of the RIDBC?

LESSON 1: TRANSFORMATION FOCUSED ON PEOPLE, NOT TECHNOLOGY

RIDBC’s transformation was driven by its real-life impact on both patients and employees. For example, because many RIDBC clients are children often Service Agreement forms were stuffed in school bags and lost. Similarly, vision-impaired clients need accessibility tools like screen readers to properly engage with their contracts.

Enabling those use cases saw RIDBC decide to digitalise its agreement process by bringing together a team including systems integrator TheFormsAgency, customer engagement management (CEM) software firm AIRDOCS, and DocuSign. Using AIRDOCS’ CEM platform for document creation and management, the solution integrated DocuSign e-signature via its API to enable simple, legally binding forms specific to RIDBC’s requirements.

As Kristina Testore, Business Improvement Lead at RIDBC, noted, “While we were transforming our IT infrastructure, we were also transforming how our employees work. That requires a big education program, since introducing the idea of e-signature could be quite scary for people who have always been in a manual world. That’s why we ran change sessions to bring everyone on the journey with us.”

LESSON 2: APPLYING SIMPLE, REPEATABLE PROCESSES

The new, flexible cloud solution is the first step in RIDBC’s digital transformation, enabling the organisation to become more services-focused and deliver better online options for clients. The key has been increasing simplicity for clients.

Focusing on implementing simplified processes meant agreements need only be signed once, with the software ensuring data consistency.

The result was a significant increase in the speed of getting agreements signed, clients onboarded and receiving care. The average time to get each agreement completed was reduced from an average of 3-4 weeks to within a couple of hours. Ultimately, that means the RIDBC boosts its access to funding to help more children.

“The new DocuSign and AIRDOCS system means we can create and complete agreements in-person now, rather than printing all the documents out and taking them home,” said Kristina Testore. “Agreements that previously took as long as six weeks to be organised can be finalised in a matter of minutes. That’s a win for us and it’s a win for our clients.”

LESSON 3: DIGITAL AGILITY TO DEAL WITH THE UNEXPECTED

Towards the end of the implementation process, RIDBC was confronted with another– even greater – challenge. The immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Institute’s staff to work remotely, while the economic shock  required workers to update their employment contracts and sign Jobseeker forms.

It was clear that completing those forms manually would be impossible during a period of enforced lockdown. The ability to be agile and use its digital tools flexibly to enable remote working was absolutely critical.

Testore continued, “We’re so happy we had DocuSign available during this period. The thought of having to work with our staff to manually organise new contracts and government forms would have been a nightmare. It has been a difficult situation in the first place, so this has made lives easier for our managers and their staff.”

The future of care

While RIDBC continues to transform and consider new ideas like integration with NDIA APIs and expanding the e-signature solution to encompass privacy and consent forms, invoicing, and direct debit processes, it hasn’t lost focus on the most important thing – maintaining the capability to care for hearing and vision impaired children.

As Kristina Testore concludes, “RIDBC continues to focus on helping hearing and vision impaired children across Australia, even amidst enormous changes of our own. Not only are we dealing with the effects of a global pandemic, but we’re relocating from our home of more than 100 years, updating our brand, and implementing digitally transformation as well. The ability to make change at that scale as easy as possible is of the utmost importance. DocuSign, AIRDOCS, and TheFormsAgency are central to how we keep our technology as simple and effective as possible.”

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