Hello from a not too cold, but not somewhat dreary Boston! I cannot believe we are entering March and will soon be headed to both the NACHC P&I Conference in Washington, DC as well as the 4th Annual Azara User Conference. As we exit UDS Season, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my observations of the last 8 weeks in a post that I recycle and update annually.
It is my sincere hope that this year’s filing was easier than last year’s and you felt more confident than ever about your submission. After nine years at Azara, I have come to expect the controlled and sometimes, not so controlled, frenzy in our office this time of year, and I remain in awe of the sheer volume of work that gets completed by the Azara team between December 1 and the February 15th filing deadline.
For Azara, a company that specializes in data reporting and analytics (including UDS) for Community Health Centers, this period is, by far, our busiest time of year. This year, the number of UDS related questions and support requests increased significantly. Tempers – of both our clients and our staff – sometimes flare, and we dedicate extra staff and hours to ensure we support all our clients promptly. In January and February, we held three after-hours sessions and multiple mid-day “Ticket-a-thons” to focus solely on addressing UDS tickets and issues. Almost everyone in the company pitches in to help with UDS and those, like myself, not qualified to answer client questions, do other Azara things, while hanging out to show moral support for the team. Of course, we also try to use these late nights as reasons to order in pizza or Chinese food and facilitate enhanced teamwork and comradery.
As with last year, I didn’t sense the widespread panic, the last-minute madness, or the caffeine-fueled craziness that we experienced in our earlier years. Plenty of clients needed assistance, had questions or needed something fixed, but in the past three years, something has felt distinctly different. As I wonder and analyze why, I did what anyone who runs a reporting and analytics company might do: I sought answers in the data. First, I confirmed this was our busiest year ever. Our team closed nearly 1,500 UDS related support tickets in the two months preceding February 15th, for a total of 2,700 closed tickets in that timeframe. To give this some perspective, I looked more closely at our support logs and ticket volumes. I discovered that our UDS ticket volume increased by 70% over last year, which coincides with our large increase in new live clients in 2018 and 2019.
These numbers tell me that we (Azara and our clients) are making progress. Our clients are getting a better handle on their data, following their UDS numbers throughout the year and are doing a better job of incorporating data into their everyday health center operations.
I often tell Azara clients and prospects: “Those who use their data the most have the best data.” I feel UDS Season is akin to the annual achievement test of this mantra; while I can’t state empirically that this year’s achievement scores rose for all our clients, I’m confident the average increased again.
Clients that use their DRVS data (or any reporting tool) as part of their daily routine are typically well prepared to report UDS, and they find minimal discrepancies with their numbers and performance. This isn’t surprising, because they’ve been viewing data and reports regularly throughout the year—some reports daily. By doing so, these clients can identify data discrepancies early—whether process or product related—and can make fixes well in advance of UDS submission deadlines. In fact, clients that use Azara’s Patient Visit Planning (PVP) report as part of their care planning and delivery are consistently in a much better position than those who don’t, because the DRVS data is already part of their daily workflow.
Data quality and fidelity requires ongoing vigilance. All care providers must promptly and adequately document the care they deliver so that they can receive proper credit for their work. In 2018, Azara introduced a set of Data Quality Dashboards with a related group of Measures and Reports to help identify bad EHR data entry or anomalies in data source submissions. If you have not seen these, I encourage you to take a look next time you log in to DRVS. Just as a salesperson keeps score by tallying up total sales, providers who regularly monitor their performance know where they stand long before year’s end. They also know—early in the year—if adjustments in processes are needed to improve the full year’s outcomes.
Congratulations to those of you who finished your UDS submission with less effort, pain, and angst than last year. Take comfort in knowing your year-round hard work has paid off. Also a public service notice to all of you: “It’s not too early to think about next year’s UDS”. Look at your data early and often. Make it part of your workflow. Review the Azara Data Quality and Data Fidelity Webinar (DRVS Help Section) for some useful tips and tricks and don’t be shy about asking your network, PCA or Azara for help.
Also, some of the Azara staff will be in Washington, DC at the NACHC P&I meeting from Monday, March 16th thru Thursday, March 19th. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to schedule a meeting or discussion with us. Lastly, registration for the Azara Annual User Conference closes on March 4th. We would love to have you join us for what promises to be another great learning and networking event.