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Good things come to those who wait? Not during UDS Season

WARNING! WARNING! UDS “Season” is rapidly approaching! Sorry for the abrupt intrusion on your brief respite of peaceful introspection. I know it's easy to get caught up in looking forward to the holiday season, but it’s just days after the holiday hangover subsides that our clients tend to leave the starting gate for their sprint to the February 15th UDS deadline.

For the uninitiated, the Uniform Data System (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 has shown me time and time again that a significant gap remains 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 of the calls and the identities of the callers. Last year, some clients began their UDS work in late summer – when we began updating the specs; others didn’t take their first look at the reports until January.

I often tell Azara clients and prospects: “Those who use their data the most have the best data.” UDS Season is like an annual achievement test of that mantra. Clients who use their DRVS data (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 put themselves in position to identify data discrepancies early – whether process or product related ­– and haven taken steps to remediate any issues well in advance of UDS submission deadlines. In fact, clients who use Azara’s Patient Visit Planning (PVP) report as part of their care planning and delivery are in a much better position than those who don’t because the DRVS data is part of their daily workflow.

Unfortunately, several of our 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 early in the year if adjustments are needed. Corrections and improvements to their processes will be reflected in the full year’s outcomes.

In the past year, HRSA has publically voiced their intentions to require that all FQHCs report UDS on their whole universe of patients and to remove the option to sample 70 charts. They have also begun limiting the monetary Quality Awards to health centers that submit data based on all their patients. Many Azara clients were 2014 award winners. We congratulate and commend them on the great care they provide.

And now my pre-holiday message: Start looking at your UDS numbers! If something appears strange or needs work, please engage our staff sooner rather than later. Support requests are handled on a first come, first serve basis. While we will try to promptly turn around all requests, we cannot guarantee we will be able to complete changes submitted after January 31, 2016 in time for the deadline. Later this month, we will publish some additional guidance related to 2015 UDS Measures. In the meantime, below are some helpful hints on how to best submit support requests to Azara.


Tips for Submitting Tickets (Help us help you!)

We expect a significant increase in the number of support tickets as UDS season moves into high gear. The entire Azara team is committed to working on the tickets to support your UDS reporting. When reporting a ticket, these steps can help speed up the process:

1. Include the full name of the report/measure you ran.

For example, there are many immunization measures and they all have slightly different specifications. Instead of telling us the immunization report, tell us "Childhood Immunization Status (NQF 0038)."

2. Tell us what filters you used for reporting period, provider, location, etc.

Depending on which filters were applied, a patient may or not be included. We can recreate the issue if we know which filters you used.

3. Be specific when describing the issue; include patient examples.

If you only tell us the report is wrong, we can't troubleshoot it.

Instead of telling us that some colonoscopies have not been counted, tell us that patient 12345 had a colonoscopy on 1/12/2014 and should be counted for colon cancer screening. If possible, send a screen shot of the information in your EHR. Always send PHI through a secure method.

4. Group similar issues.

Instead of opening five tickets with five different patients for the same or similar issue, open one ticket and give us the five MRNs.

5. Open multiple tickets if there are multiple issues.

We know it’s easier to put all issues in one ticket. However, some issues take a short time to resolve while others take a long time. Only one person will work on a ticket at a time. If the issues exist in multiple tickets, multiple people can work on your tickets.

6. Submit UDS tickets ASAP to

Tickets will be addressed in the order they are received.

IMPORTANT: PHI is often necessary when resolving reporting issues. We remind everyone of this in order provide assurance that – during the hectic UDS Season – you properly secure all support communications that may contain PHI.