Learn about the EBPU’s Housing Common Measures data collection tool

This story in brief: learn about the Housing Common Measures Data Collection Tool from our interactive presentation.

Housing is the greatest unmet need of people living with HIV. One of the critical pieces in this puzzle is identifying what services people living with HIV who are also experiencing housing instability really need. The OHTN’s Evidence-Based Practice Unit is helping six agencies that provide supportive housing to people living with HIV in Ontario collect health and service utilization information to meet that need. The data allows us to evaluate existing housing services to find out what works, what doesn’t, and identify the gaps. Longitudinal data, collected within 30 days of a client moving into supportive housing, is analyzed in conjunction with annual follow up surveys. For transitional housing programs, where clients stay for less than a year, the tool will be offered as “entry and exit” interviews.

Harmonizing Support Work and Research
The Housing Measures Data Collection Tool is a modular online questionare that asks questions about a client’s housing history, physical and mental health, income and employment, HIV markers, social life, independence, and access/utilization of medical and social services. Data is collected and recorded periodically, providing both client and worker with the opportunity to choose the most appropriate time and place to discuss the topics.

The conversation happens naturally and can be integrated into routine service delivery practices. For example, demographic information, collected as a part of the agencies’ intake process, can be entered to the tool when convenient. Similarly, the module concerning HIV markers could be discussed during a meeting aimed to improve clients’ access to HIV care. This more naturalistic approach reduces the number of lengthy and tiring interviews which can make clients feel like they are “being studied.” Presenting the process of data collection as a participatory dialog allows clients to be more relaxed and candid in a more in-depth discussion of their needs, strengths and supports.

Harmonizing data collection with service provision adds further value by allowing support workers to connect clients to support services through the data collection process. Nine validated scales measure specific health outcomes, like the likelihood and level of depression, or the risk of hazardous drinking. The Alcohol AUDIT scale, for instance, can provide support workers with indicators about a client’s level of alcohol use. These indicators can help support workers recommend referrals to services and programs, often at a discount.

Making Life Easier
Prior to being trained to use the Housing Measures Data Collection Tool, some support workers raised concerns that the project might add administrative burden to them and their clients and increase their clients’ vulnerability. To mitigate potential administrative burden to support workers and clients, the partner agencies introduced the tool to the workers as a secondary data repository where workers record historical information about clients and add new information which they collect while developing client’s service plans. Support workers who have been trained to use the Housing Measures Data Collection Tool confirm that looking at data collection through the service delivery lens helped them to change their perspective; they see the tool as a resource that helps them provide better service to their clients.

To address potential ethical concerns, the project received an approval from the University of Toronto Research Ethics Board. Client’s participation in the evaluation project is absolutely voluntary; each client provides written informed consent.

Each participating agency, with the support from the OHTN, has developed a unique process, allowing them to utilize the benefits of the tool. Agencies revisited existing intake forms and other documents, aligning them with the questions and response choices available in the Housing Measures Data Collection Tool. To ensure support workers and clients are fully informed and supported, the OHTN has developed a resource package which includes customized consent forms, information and tracking sheets, check lists and reference materials.

Improving Outcomes for People Living with HIV
The Housing Measures Data Collection Tool is an exciting partnership enhancing the OHTN’s housing research. It is helping us collect the data we need to make informed decisions about the best ways to address the complicated issues related to housing for people living with HIV. The partners and the OHTN regularly analyze the feedback from workers and clients to ensure that the tool continues serving both of its purposes: collecting the data – necessary for ongoing evaluation of the supportive housing program for people living with HIV – and offering workers an additional resource to improve care and support they provide.

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