For years, Skeleton Key has worked closely with Personal Assistance Services (PAS), a highly regarded employee assistance program (EAP) provider with national and even international reach. This client provides turnkey mental health and wellness solutions for companies throughout the country and the region. EAPs like PAS provide “bridge programs” not covered by most common insurance carriers, including smoking cessation, exercise and nutrition, mental health, addiction treatment and more.
PAS has relied on Claris FileMaker as their back-end for years, and we are often called in to help with version updates, or to solve business and technical problems that they don’t necessarily have the time or the internal resources to conquer. Our team enjoys a collaborative and creative relationship with PAS: They are well-versed and technically sophisticated when it comes to Claris FileMaker development, and we enjoy helping them learn more about the platform and get the most out of its features.
PAS approached us with what we often refer to as a “paper-and-pen” issue to solve. The various programs being offered involved a lot of paperwork, including customer feedback collected at the end of those programs. While it was worthwhile keeping all that data in their in-house Claris FileMaker system, getting that data into the system in the first place was proving to be complicated. To do this, they needed the kind of specific FileMaker expertise that we bring to the table.
Mental health and wellness programs traditionally involve a lot of paperwork, from release and privacy forms to surveys that measure end-users’ satisfaction. Because the success of PAS’s mental health and wellness programs depends on the perspective of the person using the program, collecting feedback is critical to their business model. And because those clients are not incentivized to fill out most of these forms, the process needs to be as easy and seamless as possible.
In the past, such forms would be printed and sent by mail. Not only was this slow, but the rate at which forms were returned was dismally low, and the labor and paper costs associated with paper mailings only get worse over time. And with the onset of COVID-19, mailing anything was an option of last resort.
PAS’s initial workaround was to generate static .pdf documents and send them to end-users by email. Those users would then have to print the attachment, complete it manually, scan or photograph it and return it by email. It wasn’t the most efficient solution, but it was a far better option than the popular survey programs out there. The next obvious choice was some sort of automated, off-the-shelf, cloud-based survey app. The biggest concern here was privacy, including HIPAA compliance; cloud-based survey apps simply would not allow PAS to host and secure their forms and data themselves. Form customization or flexibility were also concerns. On top of all this, figuring out a way to integrate the survey data into their existing database and matching it with customer records made this kind of solution as cumbersome as the email-then-print-then-scan approach.
That said, the lack of any sort of automation was taking a toll on two crucial phases of data collection: end-user compliance, and getting the resulting data entered quickly into the primary system. Creating and sending multiple forms in different combinations for different clients at different times—on the fly!—is a complex technical problem to automate and solve.
PAS knew that we’ve solved similar paper-and-pen problems before, and we immediately dove in to build a custom FileMaker app that would satisfy their requirements and increase customer cooperation.
Skeleton Key’s project team leveraged our expertise to write a program that we could hand off to our highly skilled client for implementation. Our engineers designed and built software that allowed our client to create new forms on the fly, manage the forms they send, and then send them individually by emailing or texting a link. These forms are hosted on PAS’s own secure and compliant server. Once filled out, those forms are immediately accessible in the PAS database, populating information that helps cut down on the number of forms that need to be sent in the first place.
Because our client was already a sophisticated FileMaker user, we were happy to build the solution and then hand it off for deployment. Our code was so well documented that they were able to handle the deployment and get the new features up and running after just a two-hour training.
Today, data is fed into their database by a reasonably straightforward process. The recipient clicks on the link and completes a set of online forms, and the data is automatically stored and updated. Each URL is unique and single-use, essentially vanishing once the forms are submitted behind an encrypted firewall. This entire process further safeguards privacy and security, including those rules mandated by HIPAA.
This kind of automation might seem like a small thing, but it is mission-critical for a company like PAS. “This put us at the cutting edge of what EAPs can do for clients…Their experience is really enhanced,” says Eileen Schmitz, vice president of PAS.
“This is an incredibly competitive industry, and it is crucial that we demonstrate the value of working with PAS,” she continues. “One of the best ways to do that is to show that employees are participating in and engaging with our programs. There’s no value if employees don’t engage. We can now demonstrate that we are leveraging technology to reduce obstacles to access.”
The system didn’t just get rid of the bulky paper-and-pen process and take meaningful steps toward increased client responsiveness; it also increased staff efficiency, as they no longer have to gather digital documents (which then also have to be carefully deleted for security purposes) or manually input data, freeing up their time for more important tasks and goals. This was an especially timely solution with the onset of COVID: Nothing needed to be mailed, and staff could manage the entire process as they worked from home.
How Skeleton Key Can Help You
PAS is a great example of a company that has grown an ongoing partnership with Skeleton Key. That relationship is based on trust and openness. “They really respect what I can do, and are also happy to show me how to do more,” says Schmitz. “They don’t put obstacles in front of you, like refusing to give you admin access to your own solution. They treat you like a partner. That is what keeps us coming back again and again.”
She adds, “They also make it their business to learn my business. That makes a world of difference.”
Whether you have in-house skilled tech talent or you need to completely outsource your development, Skeleton Key’s team is ready to meet you wherever you are today. We start first with your business problems, working in iterative phases to get you a solution quickly and efficiently.
A custom FileMaker app isn’t just more cost-effective. Claris FileMaker and Claris Connect solutions enable your team to own an in-house solution that conforms to your business and revenue models, integrates easily with existing systems and keeps track of important data with easy-to-use, intuitive interfaces.
Interested in seeing how FileMaker could be put to work for you? Visit and fill out our form for a free consultation.