Technology’s Role in Clinical Data Collection.
At incredible speed, digital technology is transforming nearly every facet of daily life. Mobile tech like smartphones, tablet devices, and apps offer industries and individuals alike a vast world of connectivity and information at their fingertips.
One notable exception is the human services industry, which hasn’t embraced digital technology at the same rapid pace. To meet the demands of their growing industry – and the needs of the millions it serves – some clinicians and staff are paving the way to revolution.
Matt Johnson Makes A Revolutionary Move.
“Years ago, it was all pen and paper,” explains a head-shaking Matt Johnson, Vice President of Clinical Services at NuPath, a provider based in Massachusetts. “It still IS in many places,” he adds. “There hasn’t been a drastic change throughout the field in the way behavioral data is collected.”
A pause. “Until now.”
For Johnson and countless others within the human services industry, “drastic change” was long overdue. With more than 25 years of experience working in human services – including 12 as a clinical director – Johnson was only too familiar with the inefficiencies of the “pen and paper” approach to data collection. “Accurate data collection relies on the person collecting that data, whether they’re a clinician, staff member, or direct support professional,” he continues. “There’s always been some degree of error. We’re people, and mistakes happen.”
The problem is a lot is riding on that information. “The data we’re talking about – behavioral data, sleep data, exercise data – is incredibly important,” adds Johnson, whose organization delivers practical care and clinical support for the disability community. “The information provides us with a picture of how someone is doing and guides the different approaches we use, from evaluating individual goals to possible medication changes.”
Johnson stops briefly, then continues.
“Digital data collection marks an impactful shift in generating a clearer picture of a client’s progress and current needs versus prior practices.”
A Real-Time Tool Making A Real Impact
Responsibility for that “impactful shift” belongs to Navigating Life, a digital app created to synchronize support systems for the human services industry. “What we’ve seen with Navigating Life is game-changing,” says Johnson, “Not just for clinicians, staff, and providers but also for the people NuPath supports and their families.”
“The staff are already in the app, messaging with and posting photos for families, which makes it that much easier also to log data. This tool benefits everyone within the human services community.”
With his central role in NuPath’s overall operation and its programs, Johnson was perfectly positioned to guide the organization’s adoption of Navigating Life and monitor its progress. “It was the first experience I’ve had with an app where the staff can enter usable information on the go.” Traditionally, clinicians and caregivers chronicled their daily observations post-shift, manually uploading hastily scribbled pen and paper notes into “the system.” Navigating Life upends that practice and provides a user-friendly portal for Johnson and the NuPath team to upload direct data entry throughout their shifts. “A clinician or staff member can access the simple, easily managed dashboard and share of-the-moment information about the person they’re supporting.”
While on-shift data collection needed to be easy, it also had to be flexible. NuPath’s clients occasionally require extra attention. Said Johnson, “It’s not always convenient for our staff to enter behavioral data right then and there. Navigating Life lets them focus on helping their client at the moment they’re needed, allowing them to upload the necessary information later.”
Clinicians aren’t the only ones who value access to real-time information. “We’re hearing lots of good feedback from family members,” says Johnson. “Through the photo feed, Navigating Life lets them look into a loved one’s day, maybe share some of the smiles and the successes. It’s a powerful way for all of us invested in the human services experience to stay connected.”
Another substantial advantage of providing real-time information is having real-time access to it. For example, Johnson suggests, “Someone I’m supporting is at an emergency doctor’s appointment, and NuPath has data pertinent to that appointment. I can go into the system and pull that information just when the client/patient needs it most. No one is left waiting for a fax or for me to pick up the paperwork and drop it off. The ease of access is huge.”
For Matt Johnson, Navigating Life’s potential impact could be far more significant than improved clinical data collection and easy access.”The data is what it is. What we can do with the data – that’s where the opportunities exist. Out of that information, clinicians and caregivers can establish more accurate baselines, create better strategies for the people we support, and find clearer paths towards their goals.”
New technologies like Navigating Life can help pave the way towards an exciting era in clinical data collection, where better data leads directly to better care.