Helping NextSense transform children’s lives with DocuSign 

NextSense, formally Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, is a true Australian success story. For more than 160 years, NextSense has been supporting people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or vision impaired across Australia to lead their lives. 

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The Institute, traditionally headquartered in North Rocks, New South Wales, is Australia’s largest non-government provider of education, diagnostic services, therapy, and cochlear implants. For thousands of adults, children, and their family, the NextSense sites across the country act as a beacon of specialist support, while clients in regional Australia can still benefit through the use of tele-practice services. 

 

Yet, NextSense was facing enormous disruption. 

 

The introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) imposed enormous changes to the charity’s funding model. And, in addition, the Institute begun its own transformation – relocating its headquarters, updating its brand, and beginning a digital transformation journey to modernise its IT. 

 

Clearing the IT obstacles to getting people the help they need 

When Kristina Testore joined NextSense as a Business Improvement Lead, she immediately identified that the biggest challenge to NextSense was one of cash flow. 

 

While the NDIS provides clients with better choice and control over care, it also meant the timescales for receiving funds were being stretched – a problem only exacerbated by a backlog of applications. The changes also created a perception problem that clients were expecting all of the NextSense’s funding would be covered by the NDIS, which had a negative effect on charitable donations. 

 

The issue began at the very outset of a client’s care journey with NextSense. The Service Agreement had traditionally been a printed set of documents, requiring manual signing and data entry. But because many of NextSense’s clients are children, often forms were stuffed in school bags and ended up lost or incomplete. NextSense required input on several forms throughout the care journey for NextSense’s approximately 1,700 clients. 

 

Even when forms were completed, finalising agreements and onboarding into NextSense systems could be onerous. While most agreements would take an average of around two to three weeks to be fully processed, some could take as long as six weeks. 

That delay significantly impacted NextSense's cash flow – and the speed that NextSense were able to subsequently start helping families with the support they need. 

 

Creating a bespoke solution to transform agreement and customer engagement

 

The push to modernise NextSense’s paper-based processes started in the organisation’s Vision Ed department with a priority to become more profitable. As part of that drive, NextSense examined its options and decided to implement a pilot to digitise its Service Agreements and customer engagements.

 

The three month pilot brought together Sydney-based systems integrator TheFormsAgency, customer engagement management (CEM) software firm Airdocs, and DocuSign to create a tailored cloud solution in partnership with its own agile development team.

 

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 NextSense’s requirements.

 

Unlike many pilots, this implementation was live and delivered in a production environment across a range of NextSense facilities. That meant ensuring simplicity for staff who weren’t used to new digital tools, requiring options for people whose first language isn’t English, and enabling accessibility for vision impaired clients by using screen reader software.

 

While initially focusing on migrating Service Agreement processes, the increased level of flexibility and rigour quickly lead to all client correspondence using the new solution, across all NextSense locations.

 

Transforming your business as the world changes around you

 

Towards the end of the implementation process, NextSense 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.

 

“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.” Kristina Testore, Business Improvement Lead, NextSense.

Results

Before DocuSign

After DocuSign

Manually signing & processing Service Agreements took an average of 2-3 weeks, delaying people’s access to care.

The DocuSign, Airdocs, and TheFormsAgency solution has reduced onboarding timelines to just 1-2 hours. 

The lag in onboarding led negatively impacted cash flow.

 The new solution has meant NextSense can access funds more quickly – and get people the help they need. 

Finance and HR documentation was slow and inflexible – and required in-person signing.

 The new solution has enabled consistent, fast changes to key documentation during the pandemic lockdown, creating a flexible platform for the future. 

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 NextSense 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 at NextSense

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 brought in experts from TheFormsAgency to run change sessions to bring everyone on the journey with us.

Kristina Testore

Business Improvement Lead at NextSense

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. 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. 

Kristina Testore

Business Improvement Lead at NextSense