Data integrity is a significant and ongoing challenge for any community-based organization. Even the most successful organizations can have difficulties training a range of different providers to accurately capture and enter data, correctly aggregate their data, and then consistently report that information each month.
We spoke with WellSky Community Services client Tyler Rosensteel, Director of the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) at Crisis Response Network (CRN) in Arizona to learn how his team successfully manages their organization’s data. CRN leads a broad provider network in the Maricopa County continuum of care (CoC), and last year, CRN became the first organization to reach 100% data integrity in the nationally recognized Built for Zero project.
In this blog, Tyler shares his thought leadership on achieving and maintaining data integrity within a complex provider network. Here is his expert insight in these 5 proven strategies:
1. Clearly share your vision and purpose with your team.
When our WellSky team visited CRN’s facility, we were greeted by a range of screens displaying data dashboards throughout. Those dashboards do more than just facilitate their operations — they also tell an important story about the organization’s impact.
“We needed to everyone to truly understand our vision to use data to achieve our mission,” Tyler said. “It’s not just about compliance, and it’s not just about data. This is about improving systems of care and ending homelessness.”
When Tyler said “everyone,” he meant it. Tyler and CRN collaborate with a range of people and organizations, including city leaders, agency leads, board members, outreach champions, and anyone else who influences or participates in the data collection process. CRN invites these stakeholders to the facility, where all those dashboards bring their vision of ending homeless to life.
“Once people understand our vision, then they see for themselves how important it is to get the data right,” he said.
2. Deliver measurable results that contribute to your vision.
The vision you share with stakeholders is a promise that you’re committed to making that vision a reality. To get full buy-in from your community, Tyler stressed that you must deliver measurable results. That starts with the technical expertise necessary for collecting meaningful data.
The CRN HMIS team consists of the director, three system administrators, one employee dedicated to reporting, and one employee focused on homeless initiatives and implementation of data driven decisions. The team prioritizes delivering the right training, support, and tools needed to support nearly 750 users of WellSky Community Services.
“When you truly deliver what you promise, three things happen,” Tyler said. “First, you build trust with everyone in the process. Second, you build community among all stakeholders the process. And third, you build people who are committed to the vision of ending homelessness.”
3. Stay focused on collecting that data that matters.
For system reporting, CRN is committed to only collecting Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data elements and nothing more.
“If someone asks me to add another data point to the process,” Tyler said, “I ask them why and then determine if that information helps move the community towards ending homelessness.”
Focus on meaningful data to accomplish three key things:
- Keep data collection as simple as possible
- Solidify straightforward, consistent workflows
- Invest in training staff to run a limited, yet relevant set of workflows
CRN does allow for customization within their system, but it’s done on a case-by-case basis and typically used for recording agency-specific outcomes.
4. Prioritize training your team members.
CRN supports hundreds of users at agencies spread throughout Arizona’s Maricopa County and Balance of State CoCs. Turnover is high at these agencies, which makes it difficult to ensure competent software use that leads to accurate data collection.
That’s why CRN is intensely dedicated to providing training every way possible. The CRN HMIS team is composed of some of the savviest software users in the country.
The CRN team creates numerous training videos for their staff, they travel to sites to deliver in-person instruction, and they also regularly invite stakeholders to train in their offices throughout Arizona in Tempe, Flagstaff, and Tucson. The CRN team deliver regular sessions throughout the year and across the state and they are eager to provide custom training on any topic that will help their partners deliver better results.
5. Empower and communicate with your team and program partners.
Many data problems can’t be identified from behind a desk. In addition to dashboards and vigilant data practices, constant communication is also essential. By talking with their homeless services staff partners, the CRN team found out that people with housing vouchers were automatically reported as housed, when in some cases, those people actually remained in shelters for various reasons. Anomalies like this are not uncommon and can only be identified by maintaining close contacts with partners in the field.
Beyond communication, the CRN HMIS team works to empower the dozens of administrators and advanced users at the agencies they partner with. By supporting their users’ success, the CRN can accomplish far more collectively than the HMIS team could do on their own.
That’s why CRN invites not only an administrator from each agency to join monthly meetings at CRN offices — they also make sure to invite a leader from each program. This strategy to boosts involvement, increases accountability, and improves results.
Even though Tyler has the expertise of a seasoned IT expert, his ability to bring people together around one shared vision is still one of his most impressive and useful skills. His and CRN’s story is an important example of how technology and effective teamwork can combine to improve homeless systems and end homelessness for people in need.
Learn more about managing a provider network with these informative resources: