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 began using Traverse in 2020 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. Shortly after that, we started working together to better understand how we could evolve the software to support their reporting needs.

Rich previously had to maintain multiple spreadsheets, access databases, and reports provided by the state to find and gather the information he needed. Data often wasn’t available until a month later, which made it hard to accurately report on key statistics or use the information to inform decisions in real time.

Now, Rich can quickly find the data he needs within Traverse. In fact, our partnership with Brunswick County DSS has inspired a full suite of reports that are built into the software for every customer to leverage! Through Traverse® Reports, customers can unlock data stored in Traverse—including data entered on local and state forms—to help with compliance and other reporting needs. No manual effort or separate spreadsheets are required to access key insights about clients, cases, and staff. All data can be exported into a spreadsheet by users with access to Traverse Reports. 

“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 and other customers can manage with Traverse 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
  • Identify collaborators connected to a case and their status
  • Track logins and activity to understand and optimize software utilization

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.

Editor's note: Brunswick County DSS was using a replica database of Traverse and SQL Reporting Services to create their reports when this post was originally published in 2022. It was updated in 2023 when we officially launched Reports as its own module within Traverse.

Divider in a blog about Northwoods Traverse & Brunswick County DSS

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