Alliance for Positive Health is a community-based organization that has been working to improve lives impacted by HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses for over 35 years. After they won our 2020 Impact Prize, we spoke with Brad Morgan and Christiana Booker about how they used a partnership approach when implementing their electronic documentation.
JT: Can you tell me about your role at your agency?
Brad: Our role is officially defined as the data entry specialists. However, encapsulated in that role is being a part of the AWARDS implementation team. [Our team] has been in charge of meeting with all the programs, finding out exactly what needs they have, and building out the AWARDS experience for each program – in a customized and personalized [way] for each program.
JT: What part of your work are you most passionate about?
Brad: I just like data in general. [I’m] really passionate about using AWARDS as efficiently as possible to help create a more efficient process. [I want to create] less duplicative work for our frontline staff, because they’re out there meeting with clients and providing these services. They don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time doing paperwork. Any place we can use AWARDS to make it more efficient for them . . . that is probably one of our biggest focuses.
JT: Before implementing AWARDS, what kinds of challenges came from documenting on paper?
Brad: One of the biggest things is just tracking. Where is a file in its lifecycle? Who has the file? What data has been entered? You’re trying to chase it around and only 1 person can physically have the file at a time.
Now, anyone can go into AWARDS [and] look at a client’s file, figure out exactly what services have been provided, and find what missing documentation we may have. That’s available to all of us, at all times. That really helps – especially now that we’ve all been working at home. Without AWARDS, it might have been close to impossible to accomplish a lot of the service providing that we do.
JT: Can you walk me through your implementation process?
Brad: We decided to roll it out on a program-by-program basis. We started [by learning] what all of their daily administrative processes looked like.
[At first], we basically replicated our paper documents in AWARDS. As we went on, we found that wasn’t necessarily the best way to do it. With AWARDS, we could use its power to eliminate some of the duplicative work. Filling out the same information on 15 pieces of paper wasn’t necessary anymore [because of AWARDS].
As we grew with our knowledge of AWARDS, we were able to change our implementation. We’ve actually gone back to meet with some of those earlier programs to [ask them] what’s working and what’s not working. Since we first met with them, we think we’ve found better ways of doing things. It’s been a learning process . . . but it’s been fun actually.
JT: Did you find that there was resistance to change?
Brad: Change resistance was probably our biggest challenge. Change can be scary. We really had to work on . . . getting the buy-in from programs for this to be successful.
JT: Do you have any tips for overcoming change resistance within an agency?
Brad: Yeah, I think for us, the biggest thing was all about how we framed the change that was coming. If we framed it as – “AWARDS is going to replace paper and you better get ready, cause here it comes” – that wouldn’t go so well.
[It was much better] when we came to them and said, “We want you to work with us. We want to solve problems for you. We want this to be easier for you in the long run. Help us help you.”
When we framed it as more of a partnership so that they had more ownership – that made all the difference.
The biggest thing was all about how we framed the change that was coming . . . When we framed it as more of a partnership so that they had more ownership – that made all the difference.
JT: In your session at User’s Conference, you spoke about your creative approach of nesting a form within a form. Can you describe how you took advantage of the form-building feature?
Brad: We provide a medical transportation program. They have to do an assessment every 6 months with their clients. They assess their clients’ qualifications for the program and they [also] gather what we call “client health indicators” through our client health updater tool. By just sitting with [this transportation team] and talking to them . . . they mentioned they didn’t like how every 6 months they were filling out 2 forms. They had to fill out the assessment and then they had to fill out the client health updater tool.
We talked to our Implementation Consultant [and learned that] we can nest one form inside the other. We created a special form just for the transportation team – which nested their assessment right within the client health indicator tool, so they only had to go into that 1 form.
It really changed their whole outlook on using AWARDS…from the outside, it seems simple, but for them, it really was a big deal.
Since this interview, we have learned even more about the form-building process – learning that we were able to nest multiple forms within a single form, so that we can use a single form to serve multiple programs. This makes future changes and reporting easier, while creating consistency across programs.
JT: How has AWARDS helped your agency adapt and respond during the pandemic?
Brad: Without AWARDS, we probably could not have continued to provide our Drug User Health Hub program through the quarantine. This would’ve left clients in a really bad, potentially life-endangering place without those medications.
Christiana: We also have a food program. AWARDS has been instrumental in keeping track of how many pantry bags are getting out and how many meals are getting served to each client.
Brad: It’s given us a way to effectively communicate during the pandemic. It would’ve been very difficult if we had to have paper files that had to be moved around all the time. [With AWARDS,] even if we couldn’t be in the same physical space sharing information, the information is still shared.
JT: Is there anything else you want to share with us about your implementation journey?
Brad: I just want to make sure we mention that Jessica Adrian, our Quality Assurance Coordinator, was instrumental in keeping this all organized. Jessica did an excellent job of filling a leadership vacuum.
Christiana: Definitely agreed. Jessica was an instrumental voice in our agency, in gathering everyone together and making sure they had what they needed [to implement AWARDS].