Connecting people with the services they need in order to gain access to food, housing, job training, etc. is the core mission of human service agencies across the country. However, frequently there is a disconnect between the services needed and the services actually received. The good news is that technology and data management are proving to be valuable resources in breaking down the existing barriers between services and individuals.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, “Effective data management plays an important role in improving the performance of an organization’s healthcare systems. Collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and acting on data for specific performance measures allows healthcare professionals to identify where systems are falling short, to make corrective adjustments, and to track outcomes.”
But where can your organization start? Here are 5 tips for using data to connect people with the right services:
Tip #1 Determine the Problem
The most effective human service organizations know who they are and what specific problems they are looking to solve. As much as they would like to be everything to everyone, it just isn’t possible. In order to determine the core problem your organization is trying to solve, start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What are my clients’ needs?
- What are the specific goals and objectives of this program?
- What is the time frame for accomplishing these goals?
Once you have identified the core problem your organization is trying to solve, the next step is determining how you will measure improvement of this problem.
Tip #2 Determine Measurable, Clearly-Defined Goals and Objectives for Improvement
Program goals and objectives establish criteria and standards against which you can determine program performance. A goal is a broad statement about what you expect to be the long-term result of your program, whereas, an objective describes the specific results to be achieved and the manner in which they will be achieved. For example, an HIV/AIDS provider might have the overall goal of increasing health outcomes for clients with HIV. In order to achieve that goal, their objective may be identifying 50 clients who are not adhering to their care plan over the next 12 months, and reducing their hospital visits.
Here are some guidelines from the CDC for establishing a “SMART” objective for your program goals:
- Specific: Does the objective include the “who”, “what”, and “where”?
- Measurable: Does the objective focus on “how much” change is expected?
- Achievable: Is the objective realistic given program resources and planned implementation?
- Relevant: Is the objective related directly to program goals?
- Time-bound: Does the objective focus on “when” the objective will be achieved?
Once you have created smart objectives for your program goals, the next step is identifying the data you need to achieve them.
Tip #3 Identify the Data You Need to Solve the Problem
Each human services organization provides unique services to a unique group of individuals, so it’s important to carefully determine the data needed to solve the problems specific to your organization. The best way to do this is to create a data collection plan that addresses the following questions:
- What information needs to be collected in order to address each quality measure?
- What are the information sources?
- How should information be collected?
- How much data should be collected?
- What is the timeline for data collection?
Once you have identified the desired data, it’s time to make that data work for you to achieve your goals.
Tip #4 Put Your Data to Work
According to a Deloitte University Press article, Rethinking Human Services Delivery, “The ability to turn volumes of data into actionable insights opens up new possibilities for redefining human services.” Traditionally, data has been used to send compliance reports to funders and track the number of services performed. However, data collection should also be used as a tool to improve the lives of those you serve. The key is to use data to determine the most important services for your clients instead of just focusing on the programs they are eligible for. This improves client outcomes and reduces operational costs for you.
“While human services agencies have always collected, stored, and reported a glut of data, the information rarely was readily available for problem-solving or managing day-to-day work. With today’s nimble and relatively inexpensive tools for data management and manipulation, however, information and insights that once might have taken a roomful of analysts weeks to understand can be put in front of workers and clients in near-real time.”
Want to know how your organization stacks up with using data to improve your operations? Deloitte provided a checklist you can use as a reference to see how you stack up:
Tip #5 Find the Right Program Fit
Out of all of the technology options available, how do you know you are making the best decision for your organization? In their 2015 report, A Consumer’s Guide to Case Management, Idealware suggested some important things to consider when researching case management vendors:
- Evaluate the size of your organization to determine what size vendor is best suited to meet your data needs.
- Think through how your organization works, both to know what system best matches the way you think about your clients, and to make sure your own process isn’t needlessly complicated.
- Determine if a new system will help you map your processes to existing best practices in order to simplify and reduce organizational costs.
Eccovia Solutions provides software solutions that connect health and human service providers with their clients. For more than 20 years, our ClientTrack Case Management platform has played a critical role in helping community and government organizations use data to more effectively serve individuals in their community.