Innovating Around the Intervention: Activate Care’s Coordination Tools, Powered by Open Referral

[Welcome to Jonathan Abbett, VP of User Experience at Activate Care!]

Imagine if our healthcare and social service systems were able to seamlessly coordinate care around all of our physical, behavioral, and social health needs. Back in 2012, inspired by this vision, I joined a technology start-up that is now known as Activate Care.

Activate Care logo

I am joined now by a much larger team of colleagues supporting our pursuit of that vision, and we’re honored to work with a community of hundreds of healthcare and social services organizations using our platform. Every so often, we stop to look around our industry and ponder what else we could be doing to help people in need, and to better serve the helpers – the people who work in healthcare, social services, and I&R agencies – who are the end-users of our tools.

What is clear is that communities across America are all at different stages in their efforts to address the social determinants of health (SDoH). These non-medical factors like housing stability, food security, and community safety all play an outsized role in the physical and behavioral health of all of us.

For this reason, many communities have launched or are in the process of developing a portfolio of interventions that help to address SDoH. Think of a coordinated entry system for housing services, the placement of food pantries in hospitals, or a high-risk young-mothers program designed to prevent involvement with the justice system. These efforts have the potential to change lives.

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The most successful social interventions go further than this screen-and-refer approach, and embrace the approach that Activate Care calls screen-and-intervene. In order to help communities leverage the power of coordinated care interventions, our care coordination and referral management systems need to talk to each other. Open Referral helps us solve a critical piece of this puzzle. Continue reading

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HHS Technology Challenge calls for interoperability solutions using HSDS

The U.S. Administration for Community Living provides funding and support to networks of community-based organizations who serve elders and people with disabilities. ACL’s grantees include a vast array of services that help people cope with food insecurity and transportation issues, manage chronic disease, support employment and economic independence, reduce social isolation, and address other factors outside of the medical clinic that impact people’s health. 

ACL recognizes that this work is fundamentally collaborative. Vulnerable people require holistic support, which typically involves coordination among institutions; however, such institutions often struggle to work together, in part because their technologies can’t ‘speak’ to each other.

To address this need for interoperability among health, human, and social service providers, ACL has announced the Social Care Referrals Challenge: an opportunity to identify, test, and promote new methods for sharing data in the coordination of care across organizations and technologies, such as sharing information about resources and/or enabling ‘warm referrals’ across systems. The ACL invites participation in this challenge from state and community leaders in the aging and disability network, as well as health care systems, health plans, and health IT vendors.

Last week, ACL updated the Challenge specifications with a range of new details – including a criteria that any proposals involving resource directory data should use Open Referral’s resource data exchange standards (the Human Service Data Specification and API protocols).

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Release Announcement: Benetech Service Net upgrade

[Welcome back to the blog, Benetech! This post is from KP Naidu, VP of Benetech Labs, with an update on their Service Net.]

 

Here in Benetech’s home of the San Francisco Bay Area, our communities are facing compounding crises: the pandemic, economic crisis, and most recently out of control wildfires forcing thousands of evacuations and causing a new airborne health crisis. This chaos has not only created a more pressing need than ever for human services that can help people stay healthy and secure, but it has also caused major turmoil among service providers.

The result has been an intensification of challenges that were already hard enough – such as just keeping track of what services are available, and when. This information is now changing even more rapidly given the challenges of providing services while social distancing – and given constrictions in funding of various kinds. Community resource referral providers report that their legacy systems aren’t able to keep up with these rapid changes – and many resorted to using Google Docs to keep track of information about services.

These challenges make collaboration more important than ever. That’s why I’m excited to announce the next iteration of Benetech Service Net. Continue reading

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Collaboration in crisis: responses to the pandemic across our network

Map of resources in Toronto

With the world in crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, health, human, and social service providers face a harrowing dilemma: need is skyrocketing, even as providers’ ability to actually help is severely compromised. Many institutions have struggled to respond or even closed down entirely – while many new efforts to meet communities’ needs have emerged with astonishing speed.

We’ve seen a wave of new efforts to connect people with information about resources — and, in many cases, these new projects quickly ran into some of the same challenges that the information-and-referral sector has been grappling with for years. Information about the availability of community resources is often harder to find – and harder to trust – than one might expect.

Some of the best instances of rapid action have emerged in places where different kinds of organizations can work together to respond in new ways. This is where Open Referral comes in handy. By facilitating cooperation among organizations that maintain and use information about the resources available to people in need, we make it easier for community leaders to respond to rapidly changing circumstances in ways that make the most out of limited time and resources.

Below, we’ve collected a range of examples of new initiatives from across our network. The breadth of experiences is impressive: in some cases, new initiatives are presenting simplified versions of complex resource data to present for a specific context. In other cases, simplified sets of resource data are being shared with more complex systems, which augment them with local knowledge from end users. And in all cases, we can see a balance between the need to respond to this particular extraordinary moment, with a long-term vision of transformed systems. Continue reading

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Presenting ORServices 3.0: a Complete Laravel-based Open Referral Directory Solution

I’m happy to announce that Sarapis is releasing a Laravel-based Open Referral Directory Solution (ORServices) as open source code!

This software enables anyone to create their own community resource directory information system — with a level of design and functionality that is comparable to proprietary resource directory software systems that are available on the market.

ORServices offers a mobile-friendly, geo-aware directory software with search and granular filters built with Open Referral’s Human Service Data Standard (HSDS) compliant data model. By leveraging HSDS, this system can also establish interoperability with other standardized systems, so that resource directory data can be shared among them.

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Delivering Open Referral Solutions with Airtable

In 2018, with a small grant provided by the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems to the Sahana Software Foundation, Sarapis developed an Airtable template of a community resource database using Open Referral’s Human Services Data Specification (HSDS). This project responded to a need articulated by many in our community for a lightweight, easy-to-use resource database for the management of complex service directory data.

With the functionality of a basic database, and the user interface of a common spreadsheet, we hypothesized that an Airtable template could provide a workable solution for organizations and projects with very limited funding.

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Providing Access to Legal Assistance through Instant Attorney

[Welcome to Everett Pompeii of Clerical.AI! We are excited to feature this as our most recent highlighted project from the field of legal services.]

Where should you refer someone for legal help?

The answer given is usually one of two extremes: free legal aid or the local bar association.

There are other options out there, from do-it-yourself apps like Legalzoom to flat rate and limited scope attorneys. However, in the vast ocean of the internet, these resources can be difficult if not impossible to find, and even if you do find them it can be difficult to compare prices. A newly launched platform, Instant Attorney, is aiming to make the problem of finding affordable legal services a whole lot easier. Instant Attorney, which went into open beta last month, is a collaborative legal resource knowledge base built on the Human Services Data Specification (HSDS). Continue reading

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Our 2019 Year in Review

As January 2020 comes to a close, I’m pleased to share our Year in Review report for Open Referral’s 2019.

The report is available to download here. You can also read it embedded in this blog post below.

This year, our report features voices of stakeholders across our network — including social workers and legal aid providers, Chief Information Officers managing legacy systems and young innovators breaking ground with new projects. These stories convey the wide range of ways in which Open Referral is making it easier for communities to share information about the resources available for their residents in need.

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Introducing Open Referral’s data transformation toolkit

We’re excited to introduce a set of tools that make it easier to standardize resource data.

Community resource directory data (i.e., information about health, human, and social services available to people in need) is deceptively complex. In order to accurately represent the relationships between organizations, the services they provide, and the locations they are offered, Open Referral’s Human Service Data Specification (HSDS) calls for multiple tables, linked together — which can be challenging to work with. HSDS addressed this challenge by calling for a set of CSV files to be bundled together by a ‘datapackage’ which would specify the tables’ contents and relationships in a single machine-readable file.

Few of the members of our community, however, were familiar with datapackages and how to create them. So we’ve now made it easier to facilitate this complex approach to resource data sharing!

Thanks to the Open Knowledge Foundation, which developed the standard format for JSON datapackages, we’ve now upgraded our specification and associated tools to make it easier to produce, share, and read standardized resource data in the HSDS format, datapackage and all. Continue reading

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