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Behavioral Health Outcomes in Client and Data Driven Cultures Faceoff


I do remember social work school-it wasn’t that long ago. There was a lot of talk about feelings; about engagement and nonjudgmental interactions; about clients. However, there was not a lot of talk about data. As agencies and therapists have changed, many have asked why data is important when there are clients to worry about. These two concepts are fighting to see who ends up on top when in reality data can drive improvements to client care.

Why Data Is Important

Cynics would say it’s about money, the opposite of social work values. This is far from the truth. Social workers have always been willing to learn. They regularly go to conferences and seminars and read books and articles. Data is all about learning so it shouldn’t be a foreign concept.

Utilizing data in a clinical context is extremely helpful. In a real world of limited resources, data supports the prudent use of the resources we have. Data helps make tasks that once seemed impossible, possible. You can learn how to best serve your clients by analyzing data This improves your behavioral health outcomes. Data shows you what works best with clients; when best to meet with them; what interventions may move things along in a more focused way. Data not only helps the decision-making process, it encourages informed decision making.

Learn more about how data can help improve clinical practice and lower no show rates by downloading the Reports Don’t Improve Outcomes eBook.

If programs and agencies want to keep providing services, data will be critical in supporting a more certain future during various changes in uncertain times. Data helps clinicians clearly show their impact on a client and heightens their accountability.

Making the Change to Focus on Data

A positive agency environment will help move your clinic towards a data driven culture. At a recent MCTAC Training (Managed Care Technical Assistance Center), culture was defined as “a way of thinking, behaving or working that exists in an organization that includes a belief system that impacts how decisions are made.” For a change to be successfully implemented, it must be supported by the culture.

As with any cultural change, a complete partnership of all members of the environment is critical. MCTAC goes on to say that a culture is built on a belief system that goes from the board of directors, to management, to the staff who supports the concept of data driven problem identification.  This creates a path to improved performance and behavioral health outcomes. We are reminded that in the end, the clients benefit from a stronger organization and more focused individual work.

Total change is a comprehensive proposition. It requires clear strategic planning with involvement and input on all levels. Program policies need to be reviewed and revised. Leadership values should be clarified so everyone is clear on expectations. Performance based programs utilize behavioral health outcomes dashboards so that everyone can be informed of data benchmarks and performance indicators.

Clearly change is not a static process. The Human Resource departments play a significant role in training new staff. Ongoing training helps staff work toward increased positive results and strong supervision and support is critical. Teams must foster good communication and collaboration.

And the Winner Is…

It is well known that change is challenging, exciting, difficult, and scary all at the same time. It’s less scary, however, when change is not really change but just a different way of looking at things. Switching from a client driven culture to a client and data driven cuture is just a different way of looking at things. The two concepts are not exclusive.

No matter the approach, the main question is always, “how do we provide the best services to our clients.” By combining data and client driven approaches, your agency is sure to provide your best services and improve your client outcomes.

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