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 AmericaServes Data Stand-Down 

By Jennifer DeLucia, DAT, Senior Director, Community Services, IVMF and Gilly Cantor, M.P.A., Program Evaluation Director, IVMF 

Earlier this month, our full team gathered at Syracuse University, home-base of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and our program AmericaServes. These opportunities to meet in person as a team are cherished – they are meetings of the minds, where we are able to pull together the knowledge, feedback, and experience of our partners that we individually gain every day working alongside those who are consistently achieving better standards of care for veterans, service members and their families in now 16 communities across the nation. We use our time wisely, critically looking at our effort to support this work and identifying how we might improve. This time our work sessions included a new element – a data stand-down! Our data stand-down was a five hour block of time that we committed to examining our current data and trends. 

One of the hallmarks of our work is actionable data and insights that are enabled by the shared technology platform (Unite US) that our partners across the nation utilize to coordinate care. The platform promotes full transparency and accountability among those providers who participate, both in terms of day-to-day operations and access to data. Networks rely on analytics to understand growth, gaps in services, and trends in service delivery. AmericaServes measurement and evaluation staff regularly provide insights in the form of dashboards, visual tools that help coordination centers strategize targeted interventions to improve network performance. The model loosely follows a developmental approach to evaluation that focuses on relationships between people and organizations over time and continuously assesses the problems and solutions that arise from those relationships. Developmental evaluation involves an ongoing feedback mechanism based on regular interactions with program data and analytics. 

Over time, we have built several external activities around data and insights to ensure this cycle was successful. For example, our community of practice – Practice360 – has been a consistent venue for our partners to interact with data and dialogue about practice-related issues and solutions. However, we realized we hadn’t been as disciplined about affording ourselves the time and attention to devote to similar activities internally. We have since devoted a block of time every month – a data stand-down – to look at our data and ask ourselves: Are we getting the most out of our data? At this particular juncture, the short answer was no. 

Nearly two years ago, we developed a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to help us to assess the health of our AmericaServes coordinated care model within and across communities. Each KPI measures a different important aspect of our work. Individually, they serve a traffic signal-like function – keep on going, be cautious, or pause and reflect. Taken together, they attempt to paint a picture of overall network and program health. 

With our communities, we’ve paid special attention to a handful of KPI groups which include things like growth, quality of care, and co-occurrence of needs. Within each KPI group there are 2-5 specific measures that gauge different things. For example, in the growth group we regularly look at the number of overall requests and the number of new clients served. Recently, many of our collective efforts have focused on our provider engagement group of measures. Working to engage providers to use the network to make and receive referrals means encouraging them to adopt a new way of doing business for providers accustomed to case management the old school way. Old school resonates with several of our teammates as a former providers who had our own lists of contacts and didn’t think twice about picking up the phone and facilitating a warm-hand off to the next provider. Not a bad process, but as many of us had experienced, not a very effective or efficient one either. So, focusing on engaging providers made sense – to us and our partners. And we will continue to focus on this, because it is central to serving individuals quickly and more holistically. However, another group of measures also caught our attention during our recent data stand-down. In looking at these measures across communities, we were able to see trends in how high performance in these measures seemed to have a relationship to high performance in other equally important measures. 

This was an ‘aha’ moment for our team. We asked ourselves: What can we do to support and influence this set of measures? We don’t fully have the answer to that question yet, but there is a group of devoted and high-performing partners across 16 communities who likely do! This realization and need for input from our partners led us to develop our activities for our upcoming annual community of practice national symposium in Dallas this fall. We are looking at five measures through five mini data stand-down activities where we will pool our collective knowledge and experience to understand this data better: What are we doing when we are successful in these aspects of our practice? What happens that complicates our success in these aspects of our practice? How can we build support and interventions together that will help us to advance performance in these areas of our practice? 

More on that after our fall symposium. Bringing it back to the basics with data and together will examine the data we have, listen to what it may be telling us, and take action accordingly. Standing down for data! Looking forward to Dallas! 

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