Goals for This Chapter
This chapter is designed to help you:
- identify the current state of client service coordination across one or more partner organizations serving the same population
- specify the areas in which performance on coordination requires improvement through the engagement of organizational leadership, providers, and clients
- strategically make choices about data-sharing with partner organizations to improve service coordination.
Current State of Client Service Coordination
Data integration should be undertaken with the intent of (1) making experiences better for clients; (2) improving client health, housing, and/or services outcomes; and (3) streamlining processes for providers so that they can spend more time providing services and less time doing paperwork or tracking down important information. One of the first steps is to ask providers and clients about exactly what problems exist (for example, with coordination, communication, access to critical client data, eligibility processes). It is important to gather information from various provider staff who serve different roles (e.g., intake/eligibility workers, case managers, data managers) to identify as many opportunities for improvement as possible. Once the challenges are identified, you can select a data system integration approach and system functionalities to address those issues directly.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- How is current service coordination conducted for existing joint clients across our programs?
- How do we conduct referrals for clients with new service needs?
- What specific areas of coordination are inefficient and time-consuming for providers?
- What kind of solutions do providers think would improve service coordination?
- What kinds of client information do providers frequently need but either do not have access to or have to work hard to obtain, and why?
- How do clients feel about the coordination of services they receive now?
- What are the potential benefits of an integrated data system? Potential drawbacks?
- What are provider concerns about using an integrated data system? Client concerns?
The following are some critical lessons learned by those at the performance sites on current client coordination deficiencies.
- There are many ways to solicit information from both provider staff and clients about the challenges to service coordination. For example, consumer advisory board meetings can be used to ask clients about what they see as critical issues. Questions about challenges can also be included in needs assessments or consumer surveys. Portions of standing staff meetings or cross-organization community meetings can be used to solicit provider feedback (either through surveys or a discussion).
- Providers across different programs are often unaware of each other’s roles and responsibilities. They aren’t sure what services their counterpart providers offer or under what limitations they operate. This can sometimes lead to one provider asking their counterpart for client services that the counterpart is unable to provide.
- Communication across providers from different programs is often inconsistent or unprioritized. Providers might only communicate with each other when a joint client has an emergency or experiences a crisis (e.g., upcoming eviction hearing is scheduled).
- Provider concerns about using a new integrated data system include added workload associated with training and doubts about the day-to-day utility of information that will be shared.
- Providers often spend a great deal of time hunting down critical client information by trying to figure out which other providers might have this information. This entails tracking down the contact information for the other providers, making phone calls to other providers, and waiting for return calls.