CommCare Fundamentals - Case Management

Case Management Learning Objectives

Case management is one of the most powerful features of CommCare -- and also one of the most complex! In this unit, we will not get into technical details about case management; we will only focus on the fundamental concepts. At the end of this unit, you will be able to:

      • Define the terms case and case management as used in CommCare

      • Explain the uses, benefits, and importance of case management

      • Demonstrate an understanding of case management by providing examples of how it can be used

      • Explain when it is appropriate to use case management in an application

      • Describe the different ways in which CommCare forms can affect a case (register a new case, modify/update an existing case, or close a case)

      • Explain how the case list and case details aid the mobile worker in navigating between different cases


In CommCare, a case is something that you track over time with your CommCare mobile application. Below are some examples of things that might be considered cases in CommCare:

Cases store information about something over time. You can think of it as a file about that thing. For example, you can imagine a case or file about a mother. When you are registering a mother in the system, you will want to keep some key information in her file. This may include her name, age, and health history. When you visit her again you may add some more details about her to that file. And if that mother moves away, you may remove her file from your system.

Every time you visit or interact with that specific mother, you are completing a CommCare form about that woman. But you are also updating the "case" which links all of those forms together - this process of creating case records and updating them over time is called case management in CommCare.

A case could be like a mini patient record on the phone, or like a doctor's chart. Keep the following in mind: a case contains data you have chosen to save because it will be useful to access during future visits. For example, you might collect various details on the mother on your first visit, but choose to only save some of that information in the mother’s file for future visits. In this way, all data collected for that mother is not necessarily saved in her file. Only data relevant for future use will be saved. 

There are three major ways you can interact with a case:




        1. Opening a new case ("registering a case")

        2. Updating an existing case ("followup with a case")

        3. Closing a case

In order to use forms that perform these actions, you need to use a Case List Menu in your application. 

Example Workflow: Shaila the Pregnant Woman

Part I: Registration ("opening a new case")

Imagine you are a Community Health Worker and you go to meet with your neighbor Shaila, who you just found out is pregnant. You take out your phone and open your CommCare application. You log in as a mobile worker and navigate to your Registration form. The form has a series of questions about Shaila - including details like name, date of birth (DOB), and weight. At the end of the form you hit "submit" and the form is sent to the CommCareHQ server. However, some pieces of information are copied and kept on the phone. Later on you will be able to provide more information about Shaila.

Part II: Follow-up ("update an existing case")

A month later it is time to visit Shaila again. You make your way to Sahila's house and take out your phone.

After you open CommCare and log in as a mobile worker, you go to the Home Visit form. However, this time you are able to choose Shaila's name from a list of all of the pregnant women you are providing care for. You have registered 15 women with CommCare, so you search for Shaila in that list and then choose her name to open up her file. You can see some of the details that were kept on the phone, like her date of birth (DOB) and weight. You review those details and open up the form. Again there are a series of questions in the form and you gather additional information, like whether or not Shaila was vaccinated. You complete the form and the data is again sent to the CommCareHQ server. Again, some pieces of information that you collected are copied and kept on the phone so that you can review them next time.  

Back on CommCareHQ, your supervisor can open Shaila's file and see that you registered her a month ago, and that today you made a home visit. Your supervisor can also see all of the information that Shaila provided in her answers to your questions!

Part III: Close

Shaila's estimated date of delivery arrives, so you go to her house. You arrive and find that she is there with her new baby!

You open up your CommCare application and again search for Shaila's name in your "case list." You choose her name and open up a different form, the "pregnancy outcome" form. Again, there are a series of questions for you to fill out. You submit the form and it is sent to the CommCareHQ server. But this time something different happens- the outcome form is configured so that when you fill it out, it removes Shaila's file from your phone! All of the data is still on the CommCareHQ server, but you no longer want Shaila's name in your phone, since you are done providing care for her.

Cases on CommCare Mobile

Case List

Once a case is created, a mobile worker will be able to locate it on the mobile application by accessing the Case List. This can be configured while designing the application on CommCareHQ  to contain key information about the case. The Case List can be sorted or filtered in different ways (for example, in alphabetical order of the mother's name or in order of the mother's expected delivery date)

Here are examples of what a case list looks like on CommCare for Android and Java feature phones:

   Android phone

 Feature phone

After a mobile worker chooses a case from the case list they will see the Case Details. The case detail screen can also be configured on the CommCareHQ Applications section, and will contain additional information about the selected case.

Here are examples of what a case detail screen looks like on CommCare for Android and Java feature phones:


                     Android Phone                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      


                  Feature Phone

The case list and details screens will be updated when new cases are added, old cases are removed, or details about an existing case are updated.

Now that you understand what a case is, we can go ahead and learn about how data works in CommCare.

Go to the next section.