Posted Wednesday, November 2, 2022 by Team Northwoods

From Input to Insight: How Brunswick County Leverages Data in Traverse

“We have all this great data in Traverse. The way we're organizing it, we can pull it out in a meaningful way.” – Cathy Lytch, Social Services Director, Brunswick County Department of Social Services (DSS)

This feedback from a customer is one of the reasons why we built our flagship software Traverse® in the first place. We often hear how workers spend too much time collecting, entering, and verifying data, but not enough time using it to inform decisions and actions. The same goes for agency leaders who have a trove of valuable insight buried in their systems for collecting data for compliance and reporting.

But shouldn’t all this data be useable if agencies are going to rely on it to produce more meaningful outcomes? Think about the benefits:

  • Uncover insights and trends: Real-time data about significant case topics and trends can help agencies paint a more complete picture of challenges confronting the community and their staff.
  • Make positive community changes: With specific examples and data, agencies are better equipped to confirm areas of concern, recommend potential solutions, and justify resources.
  • Validate decisions: Providing irrefutable evidence that the cumulative information and data available to the agency was used in making decisions helps directors when answering to families, policymakers, judges, or the community.

Since Brunswick County DSS began using Traverse in 2020, Cathy, Social Work Program Administrator Rich Ohmer, and the county’s IT team have been focused on identifying creative ways to classify, organize, and extract important data to support the agency’s reporting needs and provide better insights.

Bonus: they’ve figured out how to do it in a way that doesn’t require manual, duplicate data entry.

Divider in a blog about Northwoods Traverse & Brunswick County DSSHow Brunswick County Extracts Meaningful Traverse Data

Brunswick County DSS uses Traverse to digitize casework. The cloud-based software helps caseworkers easily collect, view, and share case content and information, while accessing electronic case files from anywhere at any time. Additionally, using the replica database of Traverse and SQL Reporting Services, the agency can then generate customized reports using data stored in Traverse to help with compliance and other reporting needs.

Before, Rich had to keep up with multiple different spreadsheets, access databases, and reports provided by the state to find and gather information. He’d then have to manually count the statistics the agency needed to report to the state each month. To make things even more challenging, data coming in from the state often wasn’t available until a month later, which made it hard to accurately report on key statistics or use them to inform decisions in real time.

Now, Rich can quickly find the data he needs within Traverse. Here’s an overview of how this works:

Step 1

Staff use Traverse as their daily system of engagement to enter data, fill out and collaborate on forms, and collect content.

Step 2

Northwoods stores a secure, read-only replica database including data entered into Traverse, data from local and state forms completed within Traverse, and other insights pulled from content collected by workers.

Step 3

Brunswick County’s IT team connects their reporting tool, PG Admin, to the replica database to build the reports using data stored in the database, and then pulls the reports into SQL Reporting Services to view them.

Step 4

Leaders on the program side can then use these pre-built reports, on demand, to glean insights into key areas they monitor.

“We can pull easy reports to give numbers and stats and see where we are,” Rich said. “To be able to use everything we put into that system without having to duplicate it with all these other spreadsheets is fantastic.”

Here are some examples of the information Brunswick County DSS can manage with these reports:

  • Track open and closed investigations and case decisions
  • Track children in foster care, their ages, where they’re placed (in or out of Brunswick County), and where the family is licensed
  • Identify cases with missing paperwork or incomplete forms

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Divider in a blog about Northwoods Traverse & Brunswick County DSS

Results: Simplified Processes, Organized Information, Better Insights

For Brunswick County DSS, being able to manage and use data more accurately brings many benefits:

  • Cathy Lytch, Brunswick County & Northwoods TraverseReal-time data makes it easier to manage and oversee cases to know what’s working
  • Leadership can quickly see how many kids are in the agency’s care
  • Workers don’t have to enter data in multiple places or formats to make it useable, which saves them time to focus on meaningful casework
  • Supervisors have an accurate overview of workers’ opened/closed cases, in-progress forms, and other key insights to help them better manage their caseloads
  • Supervisors and leadership also have time to focus on helping workers improve their practice or implement new models of care
  • Extracting data from Traverse, instead of tracking it in yet another system or spreadsheet, supports agency goals of reducing administrative burdens
  • The agency can quickly pull accurate data to report to the state without additional effort

“The real-time accuracy of the data is really the most beneficial for us. Rich used to spend hours trying to gather information monthly for reports and now he can just hit a button and get what he needs,” Cathy said. “We’re all very busy so finding ways to find efficiencies in our work is always a plus.”

“It saves a lot of time and it's more accurate. We knew when we started using Traverse that we could pull a lot of data out of it. It was just a matter of figuring out how to do it.” – Rich Ohmer, Social Work Program Administrator, Brunswick County DSS

Divider in a blog about Northwoods Traverse & Brunswick County DSS

Lessons Learned

Imagine all the forms that are completed by staff across the agency every day, and the rich data that could be extracted from form fields ... without asking anyone to manually enter this information into a separate reporting database.

  • What zip code is a specific service provider being referred to the most?
  • What releases of information connected to open cases are about to expire?
  • What type of mandated reporter calls in the most reports on children of color that continually are screened out?

Now, imagine how your agency could target resources based on using insights gleamed from form data to answer these questions:

  • Knowing what communities have a specific service need could help for targeting preventive services.
  • Understanding what releases of information are about to expire can help ensure there is no lapse in collaboration, while improving quality assurance.
  • Figuring out where exactly racial bias starts can help target those mandated reporters with additional training around reporting and bias to decrease over-representation.

When data becomes useful, the possibilities and use cases are endless. The insights gathered can have positive impacts on how agencies allocate resources and staff already stretched thin.

If you’re a current customer and want to learn more about using Traverse to support your agency’s reporting needs, contact your Customer Success Manager to get started. If you’re not a customer and want to learn more about how Traverse can support your agency’s overall program goals, get in touch and we’ll connect you with one of our social services experts for a personalized demo.

Director of Advocacy Laura Haffield and Director of Product Marketing Lauren Hirka contributed to this post.

Divider in a blog about Northwoods Traverse & Brunswick County DSS

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