Fully implemented in 2009, the NATSAP Research Database has become a valuable professional tool for many NATSAP members and their programs. With over 21,500 entries, the goals of the database are to:
- Collect aggregate outcome information that helps NATSAP communicate the nature and quality of member programs’ work to stake holders,
- Allow programs access to their own data for purposes of quality improvement and treatment planning, and
- Organize the data into an archival database that can be accessible for approved additional research projects.
While highly successful on these as well as other fronts, the research database has experienced a few difficulties in its growth. Probably the major difficulty experienced by the database emanates from the fact that most program clients are provided with services from multiple organizations. For example, it is not uncommon for a client to begin services with an educational consultant, participate in a wilderness program, followed by a stay in a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center and possibly ending with a transitional program. The client receives a different identification number at each program making it impossible to track movement from one program to another with certainty. This problem results in many cases where the client is asked to complete a consent form and other surveys as though they were just beginning the process when the same surveys might have been completed at another location within the prior 24-48 hours.
Clients and parents have reported frustration with these redundancies that have resulted in significant data loss. Additionally, researchers will benefit tremendously by having the ability to track a client through the full course of treatment services, an option that is not currently available.
The resolution of this issue and method of strategically positioning the database lies in connecting the research inputs through the use of a single identification number that would be used by all programs. This "Golden Thread" would weave its way with the client through all treatment processes. As a secondary benefit, it would join together the multiple professionals found in IECA, NATSAP, OBHC, and other supporting programs. Involving educational consultants will result in access to collecting data on clients who seek consulting services but do not end up using a program. These data are exceedingly valuable to the research initiative because of the difficulty of facilitating randomized controlled studies of treatment outcomes.
Additionally, a combined research initiative involving multiple associations will strengthen the social movement at hand, namely, to improve the quality of services by using outcomes to influence placement, treatment, and program development. This objective is at the core of all interested associations.
To achieve these objectives, the development of a comprehensive, integrated software program is necessary. Spearheaded by Dr. Jared Balmer (NATSAP Board Research Committee Liaison) and Dr. John Santa (NATSAP Research Committee Chair), this program will be developed in three stages: (1) building the necessary hardware and software database platform, (2) developing a universal identification system to link clients from multiple accounts and appropriately sort clients for statistical analysis, (3) implementing the capability to transfer survey information into multiple accounts and maintain standards established by the governing institutional research Board. Once established, ongoing support systems to assist participating programs will be put into place.
All associations interested in joining this unified effort will be responsible for financial contributions to fund the development of the Golden Thread…and this is where we need your help. NATSAP is asking our member programs to promote this software as Research Sponsors. Your sponsorship dollars will go directly to creating the Golden Thread. In return, your logo will be hyperlinked on the NATSAP website as a Research Sponsor, your program will be recognized at the NATSAP Annual Conference and in the NATSAP Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. Additionally, if you are already contributing to the NATSAP research initiative you will be included in the beta testing of new development and be in the first group to access data in your OutcomeTools account that were collected before and after your program. If you are not involved in the study you will receive a 15% discount for one year’s subscription to the Remote Research Director Service through Petree Consulting Inc. Major contributors will be able to work with the research scientist group for publishing the outcomes of their program’s efforts in a journal article if interested.
Research has always been a priority for NATSAP and our member programs. We have the opportunity to take this to the next level and improve data collection across the continuum of care. Join us.