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Another UDS season is done, but why not start thinking about next year’s?

As I looked out at all the activity in our office this month, the sheer volume of work completed awed me. In the community health world, January and February is “UDS season.” For the uninitiated, the Uniform Data System, or UDS, is the annual reporting that every Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) must provide to HRSA by mid-February. For Azara, a company specializing in data reporting and analytics (including UDS), this period represents our staff’s busiest time of year. The number of questions and support requests increases almost two-fold, and we dedicate extra staff and hours to making sure all our clients are served in a timely manner.

UDS Season also shows me that there remains a significant gap in how our clients apply and use data in their daily operations. This is visible to me not only by the volume of calls we receive, but also by the timing and identities of the callers. (Names have been changed to protect the innocent). Some clients worked on UDS since we began updating the 2014 specs late last summer, while others took their first look at the reports in late January.

A favorite saying of mine that I mention regularly with Azara clients and prospects is: “Those who use their data the most have the best data.” UDS Season is like an annual achievement test of that mantra. Clients who actively use their data from DRVS (or any reporting tool) daily are typically well prepared to report UDS, and they find minimal discrepancies with their numbers and performance. This is not surprising, because they have been viewing data and reports regularly throughout the year – some every day. By doing so, these clients have placed themselves in a position to identify data discrepancies early, whether process or product related, and haven taken steps to remediate the issues well in advance of UDS submission deadlines. In fact, clients who use Azara’s Patient Visit Planning report as part of their care planning and delivery are in a much better position than those who do not, because the data from DRVS is in their daily workflow.

Unfortunately, several FQHC clients perceive reporting as a deadline-based initiative and wait until 30 days prior to the reporting deadline to assess where they stand. While we do everything we can to help those clients, it always feels like we are a day late and a dollar short, and the emotions that emerge during this caffeine-fueled race to the finish can be ugly.

Data quality and fidelity requires ongoing vigilance. All care providers must properly and promptly document the care they deliver so that they can receive proper credit. Just as a sales person keeps score by tallying up total sales, providers who regularly monitor their performance know where they stand long before each year’s end. They also know if adjustments must be made early in the year so that the corrections and improvements to their process will be reflected in the full year’s outcomes.

Azara is pleased to feature a new case study this month about the onboarding experience of one of its newest clients, Health Care for the Homeless. The great team at HCH, based in Baltimore, took the time to share with us their experiences in getting their data correct and how they viewed this meaningful investment of time and effort. I encourage you to read about them.

In the meantime, congratulations to those of you who finished your UDS submission ahead of time. I hope you enjoyed your newly found time. For those of you who dashed to the finish line, I hope we could help. And for everyone, 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, and remember: “Those that use their data the most, have the best data.”

Jeff Brandes is president and CEO of Azara Healthcare.