Now, you have concrete evidence of what you were doing, rather than having 50 sheets of paper that you then need to input into a spreadsheet.Scott Holt, Vice President, Finance, The Arc Jacksonville
The Arc Jacksonville has been serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for 56 years. But with changing community needs and funder expectations, they realized they needed a system that would keep up with their growing data, billing, and reporting needs.
We sat down with Scott Holt, Vice President of Finance for The Arc Jacksonville, to talk about owning your own data, reporting to the state of Florida, and the challenges of leading organization-wide change.
JT: Can you tell us a bit about your role in the organization and within the implementation team?
Scott: I’m Vice President of Finance. My main role is, of course, [managing] the accounting and paying the bills. But I was [also] on the implementation team from the beginning, once our board set it as a strategic plan item.
JT: Is there a part of your job that you’re most passionate about or proud of?
Scott: I do what I do so that the people on the frontlines can do what they do. I deal with payroll . . . and paying the bills, so that our staff can worry about attending to the needs of our clients.
We are integral in getting cash into the organization. Even though I’m behind the scenes . . . it’s because of what we do, that the people on the front line don’t have to worry about that.
JT: Can you describe some of the challenges that your organization was facing?
Scott: One of the big challenges that we were facing was . . . all of our different departments had their own list of client information. We share a lot of clients between programs. [For example], we have a client that lives in one of our group homes, goes to an adult day training, and is also in our mental health program. Sometimes, one department might have some new information that another department serving that [same] individual might not have access to.
[Each department was storing client info in] different formats — some were using Excel, some were using a database, some were using Word. It was very difficult to get information on a timely basis.
We have 10 sites. So if each one of those sites had information in a different format, it just got really bogged down.
JT: Did you have any specific challenges around billing and claims reimbursement?
Scott: In the billing area, we did have some challenges. We had a database that we were doing the majority of our billing through. An individual created the database — she actually retired about 3 years ago. Whenever we had an issue with that database, she would remote in and try and fix things. But that wasn’t [working for us] anymore.
[Also], the people doing the billing didn’t understand how to fix [claims] . . . AWARDS [allows our staff to] see the components that we’re billing for, and why something didn’t bill. It’s given us a lot more information as to why things are or are not billing.
JT: How does AWARDS allow you to do Florida-specific reporting?
Scott: For the state of Florida . . . . we have [some grants] with APD (Agency for Persons with Disabilities). We’re now able to give them attendance reports for very specific people.
We added a client identifier for people that are in the work readiness program. (The grant that we got is for work readiness.) We can [now] easily pull out people that are work readiness, and [exclude] anybody that is not [from the report.]
We can give a lot of detailed information, [such as]: who attended what class on what day, how much training we’re doing, and how much individuals are actually in training on a monthly basis.
JT: Some agencies may opt for a free system provided by the state. From your perspective, what are the benefits of owning your own data and having your own EHR system?
Scott: We can customize. [With a state] system, there’s no way we can be like: “Can we add this consumer identifier? Can we add this as a reason for discharge?”
With AWARDS, we can contact [Foothold] and say, can we do this? The other day, our employment department wanted [to track a reason for] discharge when an individual has gotten to the point where they don’t want to work anymore. I worked with Foothold and within hours, it was added to the list [and] ready to be used.
That is the advantage of having your own EHR system and having a company that will work with you on customizing it to your individual agency’s needs.
JT: Right, so it’s the customization on top of having dedicated support.
Scott: Absolutely, the support is really good. We have an internal help desk . . . [but] if there are things that we can’t explain, then it goes to Foothold.
Josh Clickman was our implementation person on billing, and I’ll still write to him [with questions.] And he’ll [tell us to] reset these steps or these items in your entitlement, and then it will work the way you expect it to work. That kind of support is just invaluable to us.
JT: When you were implementing, did you see any resistance to this change?
Scott: Oh yes, definitely there was resistance. We really had some pushback…it wasn’t overt pushback, it was more complacency. Our CEO put out a note and said listen, you have to do this. It really kind of pushed the employees to get in the system.
I kept telling people, “You can’t break it, if you do something wrong, we can undo it and then you can do it right.” [I think] that was part of the hesitancy…our staff isn’t necessarily tech-savvy, they were afraid that they were going to break something.
It’s amazed me how our staff has really risen to the occasion, as far as doing stuff in AWARDS. And now, we don’t even think about how we did it before.
JT: Do you think your CEO’s announcement was the biggest driver in getting staff on board?
I think that was the biggest catalyst in getting them started. When one of our VPs started using AWARDS, she became the biggest advocate. She said, “This is so much easier for me, because I can see the information for all 5 of our group homes, sitting at my desk, rather than driving to each location and looking at the hard files that they have. Now I can see where I need to spend my time.”
JT: How do you think AWARDS has helped you improve services for the better?
It’s given us more concrete information about the services that we’re providing and the impact that we’re having on individuals. Now, you have concrete evidence of what you were doing, rather than having 50 sheets of paper that you then need to input into a spreadsheet.
Since I help with grants a lot, the [grants ask for demographic information such as] how many of our clients are females, individuals under the age of 30, etc. Now, I run one of our demographic reports . . . and all of that information is in one report, broken down the way they need it.
I send that to development and they’re like, thank you very much — that’s a 5 minute deal at the most.