Services for the UnderServed (S:US)
Since 1978, they’ve been providing services for people in and around New York City whose lives have been unsettled by circumstances beyond their control. Since then, their growth has been driven by the needs and their complexity. They don’t prescribe paths that define people but offer solutions that support each person’s definition of a life of purpose. When you look closely, the injustices facing our society are really a universe of highly individual obstacles. When an individual’s life is put on hold for circumstances unique to them, establishing a relationship with them is step one. The results: Individuals and families no longer limited by their obstacles but propelled by opportunities for a richer experience with the world. A ripple effect that extends from individuals out into their communities.
Over the past three years, support from the First Nonprofit Foundation has helped S:US strengthen its ability to collect and analyze data through the implementation and utilization of Tableau, a business intelligence software package that helps organizations manage and understand their data. Through Tableau, S:US’ executive team and staff now have access to data in real-time in order to evaluate productivity, assess referrals, make informed decisions, track program activities, and compare impact and outcomes over time.
In 2019, S:US’ Strategic Information & Business Intelligence (SIBI) department was able to execute the next step in its Tableau project. Due to a generous $20,000 grant from the First Nonprofit Foundation, S:US acquired the hardware necessary to create a secure environment to incorporate, process and store data accessed by Tableau, improving S:US’ overall efficiency and effectiveness with respect to data analysis. At this time, the only ongoing expenses are related to Tableau’s software licenses (roughly $5,000 – $10,000 annually), which are covered by SIBI’s operating budget.
After receiving a $20,000 grant from the First Nonprofit Foundation in July 2019, S:US rolled out the signature pads within our Behavioral Health Services division shortly afterward. However, in August 2019, S:US’ network was hacked, and we needed to shut down all of our systems and rebuild over several weeks. This greatly affected the rollout of this equipment.
Once the network was stabilized, S:US’ IT staff worked to reconnect the signature pads at our Behavioral Health sites. This is the main reason we are behind schedule. The remainder of signature pads and biometric terminals will be purchased and installed in January 2020.
Tableau is designed to compile, sort and classify data in a way that is easily understood by the end-user. For example, S:US has many program sites, each with a unique name (e.g., HomeBase; Harmonia; Renaissance; etc.). However, S:US’ internal software platforms refer to these sites differently. For example, our finance department’s software system assigns numbers (e.g., PW-009; UH-001; BH-158) to represent program sites, rather than a common name that most staff would understand. These numbers only make sense to someone who works in finance. Tableau eliminates this issue by establishing a common form of identification for all sites, that all end-users can easily understand.
Tableau also allows S:US to readily produce and view a map that not only identifies where each S:US program is located (see Figure 1) in New York City, but it can also include the boundaries of each NYC Council Member District. This is helpful information to have when we apply for City Council funding, as well as when determining if certain areas are appropriately represented by S:US programs.
We are happy with the results of the project to date, and there is nothing significant we would do differently if we were starting over. However, we continue to research funding opportunities that will help pay for staff training to enhance their skills, specifically with respect to the creation of visual presentations.
Prior to this project, S:US lacked a secure environment to incorporate, process and store the data Tableau gathers. With funding from the First Nonprofit Foundation, S:US was able to obtain the following pieces of hardware that address several key issues:
- A signature capture pad is a device that electronically captures a person’s handwritten signature on an LCD touchpad using a pen-type stylus. As a user digitally “signs” the LCD touchpad, a sensor “reads” the pressure from the tip of the stylus, transmitting signature data to a computer. The new Topaz Signature Pads now allow S:US to adhere to industry best practices and obtain electronically signed consent of the people we serve by the most secure means possible.
- The new desktop computers provide a tremendous amount of efficiency when it comes to coding and developing information behind the software, creating data sets, and auto functions that allow S:US to bring different sets of data, from different systems together.
- The BioMetric Terminals offer the ability to capture client-related data from different sites. For example, at S:US’ Day Habilitation sites within our Developmental Disabilities division, individuals served by this program can now clock in when they arrive, and clock out when they are finished for the day. Tracking their time on-site now allows S:US to bill Medicaid for services provided more efficiently.
- The noise-canceling headsets allow end-users to concentrate and work more effectively in an open office environment.
- The WebCam offers the flexibility and convenience of on-line meetings with vendors and consultants who cannot visit S:US on-site.
The Tableau Data Collection & Storage project helps both staff and the people served by S:US through more effective use of data and more efficient delivery of services. For example, one of S:US’ largest programs, Behavioral Health Services, supports individuals who are at highest risk for homelessness, unemployment, untreated medical, psychiatric and substance use disorders, and disconnection from family, social and other natural supports. S:US operates two Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics in New York City, where available services include: crisis mental health; screening, assessment and diagnosis; targeted case management; substance use treatment; care management and psychiatric rehabilitation; peer supports; and co-located primary care.
By utilizing the Topaz Electronic Signature Pads, once an individual begins receiving services from S:US and provides consent, their electronic health records can be accessed immediately by appropriate S:US staff. Communication with their various healthcare providers is streamlined, and electronic health records can be updated and transmitted easily. Also, billing questions and issues are more easily resolved.
The use of Tableau and the accompanying hardware is not a unique solution. In fact, Tableau is one of the top five analytics applications on the market today. However, the solutions that S:US has implemented are unique in the sense that they help streamline our data analysis functions across six distinct programs serving more than 37,000 individuals annually.
What were the benefits?
This project allows S:US to gather a wide array of data from different sources, consolidate it into one place (Tableau), and examine it in many different ways that help the executive team at S:US make decisions based on real-time data. The essence of Tableau is that it tells a story based on data. Therefore, it is critical for S:US staff to be able to transform the data through presentation design. An effective presentation consists of taking information and compiling it in a concise, visual, and aesthetically pleasing way. The result should be an easily digestible compilation of information for any audience to understand. This is one of the many benefits of Tableau that S:US staff have been utilizing in order to answer the question: “What is the data telling us?”
What were the results?
Staff, including executive leadership, are better informed. They have access to the most up-to-date data. Simply stated, the Tableau software/hardware project has enabled S:US to build a secure data warehouse to store information pulled from internal/external sources (e.g. the DMV, Regional Health Information Exchanges, Hospitals, and S:US departments such as Finance, Human Resources, and Development).
How were the results measured?
Tableau serves as the graphical interface for most of the organization’s data, and the ability to analyze this data has already benefited S:US in a variety of ways. For example, through the implementation of Tableau, we now have the ability to quickly and accurately examine the number and type of Medicaid claims across the entire organization. Finance and program staff can now view each claim and learn why a particular claim is still open, or why a claim was submitted but not reimbursed. With this baseline of information readily available, staff can work more efficiently to address these claims and whatever issues or problems that may exist.
The data that is processed by Tableau is also helping us understand the precise value of services rendered. For example, we can now determine what percentage of services provided are ineligible for reimbursement; we also now understand what the precise cost is to provide a particular service, and we can also accurately compare the precise cost of services vs. actual reimbursement rates or revenue sources.
As stated earlier, the foundation of the Tableau project has been built thanks to the generous grants from the First Nonprofit Foundation. At this stage of the Tableau project, the only ongoing costs are for software licenses (roughly $5,000 to $10,000 annually), which are covered by SIBI’s operating budget.
This project has the potential to be replicated many times over. Tableau basically helps in simplifying raw data into an understandable format. It can be used in any type of project where data analysis is required to make informed decisions.