The Aunt Bertha Blog

Stake Your Claim! Help keep program information up-to-date

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A key challenge to connecting people with social services is keeping resource information current. Because program offerings and funding change constantly, it is not uncommon to gather a binder full of resource information that becomes outdated after just a few months. "Keeping up-to-date with new resources that can help our clients is definitely difficult," shares Runi Limary, Director of Programs at the Breast Cancer Resource Center in Austin, TX.  "Trying to maintain that data over time is even more challenging because things are constantly changing."

Aunt Bertha works with providers to solve this problem by allowing users to claim and maintain their program listings.  

 Claiming allows organizations to: 

  • Update listing details to ensure accuracy 
  • Indicate resource availability and capacity
  • Attach a screener to make it easier for potential clients to determine their eligibilty and to take the next step to reach out
  • Suggest or remove programs as needed

Providers who claim their programs also get access to a free dashboard that shows the number of times each of their programs has been returned in search results.  This information can be used to support program planning or fundraising efforts.

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Anyone who works at an organization can claim programs using their work-affiliated email address.  

Ready to claim?  Click below to find your program and get started...

 Claim my listing!

If you would like support with this process or have questions, email support@auntbertha.com.

 

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Close the Loop Without Jumping Through Hoops

Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to directly connect to social services anywhere in the US... with the click of a button? Now you can.

For years, Aunt Bertha has made it easy to find social services resources through our online database. Now we're taking the next step to seamlessly connect people to programs, saving people time and closing the gap between discovery and action.

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Introducing, Connect! - a new feature offered by AuntBertha.com.

When someone reaches out through the Connect button on any program listing, the agency will receive a notification about the inquiry and can reply directly to the person in need. Agencies also have the opportunity to add additional questions to the form so it's tailored to their intake process. The agency can then reply through Aunt Bertha to share additional information and collect required documents.  Anyone can use the Connect button, whether for themselves, as a seeker, or on behalf of someone else, as a helper.

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Each person involved, the seeker, the helper and the agency have a dashboard where they can update the status of the connection.  The status reflected in one party's dashboard is updated across the other relevant dashboards as well. For example, if the agency changes the status in their dashboard and denotes a seeker's application is "in review", that information will be reflected in the seeker's and helper's dashboards as well. This allows for easy and more transparent communication across all groups, and helps to close the loop. Over time, the dashboard also becomes a place that logs a history of all the open and past connections for each person. 

We know that finding and connecting to social services can be challenging, and even scary. We also know that there is a big gap in closing the loop, assuring services were received. Our hope is that by making it as easy as possible to connect and communicate, it will help us all to acheive our ultimate goal: knowing people have found the help and support they need.

Topics: new features

Aunt Bertha Raises $5 Million Investment to Democratize Human Services Search and Referrals

Series B funding led by Techstars Ventures allows company to extend lead as the number one search platform for social service search, referrals and application processing.

Austin, TX, June 7, 2016 - Aunt Bertha, the social services search and referral platform, today announced a $5 million Series B round of financing led by Techstars Ventures (TSV). Jason Seats, partner at TSV will join Aunt Bertha’s board.

“There’s a lot of unnecessary suffering going on for many Americans including veterans, those with low income, and those with complicated medical conditions. Many don’t know about government or charitable programs that can help,” said Aunt Bertha CEO Erine Gray. “The growth capital will help us extend our lead as the number one search and referral platform for social services. We’ll also continue to partner with the most innovative health care organizations, community foundations and governments.”

Techstars has a long history of building successful software platforms, including investments in Uber, Twilio and Sendgrid. “After my trip to Boulder, CO to meet the Techstars team, it was clear that they were the partners we wanted to work with,” said Gray. “Our company cultures were aligned.”

AuntBertha.com, a social services search and referrals platform, is available to everybody in the United States - everywhere - from New York City to small towns like Ashland, VA. The Austin, TX based team has spent the last five years indexing the country’s health and human services programs, including those provided by charities and government agencies. AuntBertha.com is easy to use and free to the public. To date more than 207,500 people have used the platform - either to help themselves, or to help others.

“What we liked about Aunt Bertha was that they found a way to provide a valuable service to folks in need but also put together a business model to support it. We were impressed with their customer list, which includes some of the country’s most well-respected hospitals, foundations and health insurance companies.” - Jason Seats, Techstars Ventures.

The company sells a premium version of it’s platform to employers of large groups of social workers and case managers. The enterprise version makes it simple for employees of these organizations to find social services on behalf of their clients, make referrals to agencies that can help and report on activity and outcomes.

“I first met Erine and the team in 2013,” said Liz Luckett, president of The Social Entrepreneur Fund (TSEF), an investor and Aunt Bertha board member. “The team has dedicated their careers to fixing problems in health and human services and have the experience and customer insight to deliver. They’re using data and reporting to communicate public health insights that could fundamentally change how services are delivered. It’s going to be exciting to watch.”

About Aunt Bertha

Aunt Bertha is a search platform for finding and applying for social services in the United States. People in need, case managers and social workers can find and apply for government and charitable services in seconds. The company also provides enterprise tools for organizations that employ large groups of social workers. Aunt Bertha is a privately held company based in Austin, TX, founded by Erine Gray. For more information, please visit https://www.auntbertha.com.



 

For Complex Care Management, Camden Coalition Finds the Right Resources – Fast

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What if health care professionals working with medically complex patients could easily coordinate holistic care plans to meet all of their patients' social service needs in their community? Would it decrease the patients’ chance of being re-admitted to the hospital? Could it eventually lower healthcare costs for the entire system?

A new project launched by the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers may provide answers. For over ten years, the Coalition has worked to improve the access, quality and capacity of health care in the city of  Camden, New Jersey.

The Coalition’s multidisciplinary care teams support frequently-hospitalized patients with complex care needs. They  work with the individuals in a short-term intervention to stabilize their health. Many of the patients served by the care teams are taking multiple medications, have two or more chronic medical conditions, and are susceptible to social vulnerabilities such as homelessness, addiction, and unemployment. 

 "A lot of our case managers are skilled and know a lot of information, but not all of that information lives within everyone. That’s impossible. So certain people have more domain expertise but this allows that information can be shared. So the knowledge doesn’t have to live within one person." 

Laura Buckley, Social Work Manager for the Coalition, outlines the challenges of keeping medically complex patients in Camden healthy and out of the hospital. “Certain patients can have unstable housing, and when people are unstably housed, it can be difficult to coordinate their health care. For others it may be the exacerbation of mental health and addiction. The struggle to connect to those resources can increase the likelihood of [the patient] being readmitted. Because discharge planning in the hospital often can happen so quickly it can be a challenge to make sure that everyone is on the same page."

The Coalition’s care teams help patients navigate an overwhelming and fractured system, empowering them to not only address their medical issues, but social barriers as well. 

The journey begins at the hospital where care teams meet patients at bedside. Patients and Coalition staff discuss the patient’s health goals based on areas of need that the Coalition calls "domains of care." Examples of these domains are "housing and environment,” “education and employment," or "food and nutrition." Coalition staff learn the patient’s personal story and collaborates with them to connect with the best programs to support their stated goals.

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For the last decade, this has largely been facilitated by experienced case managers, using note cards to guide their patients through the process of attaining their goals. Without a centralized, up-to-date resource library, care teams had to rely on their own specialized knowledge to connect patients to services.

Over the last several months, the Camden Coalition and Aunt Bertha have collaborated to develop an online tool that links them directly to the social services they need to support their patients. The tool guides a user through the same domains of care and interventions, but now, when the case manager selects an intervention, they can enter the patient's zip code, and the programs that support their specific intervention immediately populate.

The new online tool allows care teams to create an integrated care plan that supports the patient's social needs in addition to their medical care. "We’re still asking what goals they want to work on,” says Buckley.  “Once they identify a few things, we can use Aunt Bertha to link them [to programs] or start that plan... It doesn’t change the questions that we’re asking but it helps us to find an answer sooner."

The tool allows for shared knowledge across an interdisciplinary team. "A lot of our case managers are skilled and know a lot of information, but not all of that information lives within everyone. That’s impossible,” says Buckley.  “Certain people have more domain expertise but this allows information to be shared. So the knowledge doesn’t have to live within one person." 

To support and empower their patients, the Coalition provides their patients with a resource binder and their own link to Aunt Bertha where they can search for additional resources. Buckley says that she is hoping that by empowering patients to find their own resources, they'll be able to support themselves. "A lot of times patients do have smart phones. [Aunt Bertha] is an added benefit – a resource pocket guide that they can have on them at all times. It ensures sustainability of the intervention and helps empower our patients to find the resources and access the resources they need when we’re not there, which is the ultimate goal."

Interested in using Guided Search?
Request a Demo

 

Capital Area Food Bank Leverages Aunt Bertha's Technology to Break Down Barriers


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Photo courtesy of CAFB

The Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) is the largest organization in the Washington metro area working to solve hunger and its companion problems: chronic undernutrition, heart disease, and obesity. As the CAFB has worked for the past 36 years to strengthen the safety net under the region’s most vulnerable neighbors, it has provided nourishing food and other resources to over 540,000 people living in our nation’s capital and its surrounding suburbs in Maryland and Virginia. Many of those residents visit pantries, soup kitchens, and other non-profits who receive food from the CAFB; but sometimes, a neighbor in need doesn’t know where their next meal will come from.

For those emergency moments, the CAFB had, until 2015, operated a Hunger Lifeline, whereby community members would call a number to be referred  to the food assistance partner by a CAFB team member on the other end of the phone line. Though well-intentioned, over time the CAFB noticed that these referrals were creating red tape for their callers as they could not receive services without making that call. When the CAFB realized that they had become a gatekeeper, more than a gateway, they knew they had to make a change.

So in 2015, the CAFB did away with their referral system entirely and launched the Food Bank Network, an online search portal for social services, powered by Aunt Bertha. The Food Bank Network is free to the public and offers resources that go beyond food assistance, such as housing, transit, goods and health programs. “It empowers individuals to find the services they need on their own time, with their privacy intact. And it ensures that those resources are up to date," says CAFB’s Director of Marketing, Kirsten Bourne.

And empowered, they are. Before the implementation of Food Bank Network, the CAFB averaged 600 calls to their Hunger Lifeline every month. Following the launch of the Food Bank Network, calls dropped to an average of 50 calls per month. During the same period, the Network has averaged 2,176 online searches per month.

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Because the Food Bank Network captures information for a broader range of services, CAFB can work with their nearly 450 partners to support their community in a deeper, more holistic way.  “We are much more sophisticated about the data we have in terms of need... and are able to better understand the pressing issues facing people that are living in poverty and help organizations unite to face those challenges,” says Bourne. “Food is the hook to bring people into literacy, job training programs and housing.”

Paula Reichel, DC Director of CAFB elaborates, “People and nonprofits oftentimes operate in silos; the [Food Bank Network] is bringing awareness to the very essence of what we are – a network…”

Through her work, Reichel has found that people of all backgrounds and occupations are providing resources for their fellow community members. “Whether it’s policemen, librarians or even teachers with food in their desk, Food Bank Network is a tool for anyone.”

To learn more about what services people are looking for in the greater Washington DC area, download our free report.

Download Washington DC Report 

Topics: data Community building empowerment

Population Health Reporting

Organizations taking a vested interest in population health face a handful of challenges when it comes to identifying the social service needs of their members and/or patients. Historically, it has taken a considerable amount of work to find and organize domestic programs in the United States. Until now, the information on these services has either been scattered or siloed. Aunt Bertha aggregates domestic free and subsidized programs that are direct service from respective county, state, and federal levels.

Whether you are a local nonprofit or a multi-billion dollar health care organization, teams must confront the difficulty of better understanding the social services offered in their local communities, and their patient's respective needs. The inability to do so, can result in a multitude of negative consequences; ranging from expensive readmissions costs to missing the root cause of a member’s problem altogether.

If you are an agency providing a social program, you may understand the demand for your specific offerings, and respective capacity to perform these services. This is helpful, but do you know the number of individuals searching for programs similar to yours in your county? How about how many are searching last week or today?

Currently, most organizations are making anecdotal assumptions about their comminity's needs - or using academic reports that are out-dated. Are you scrambling every time a grant is due? Are you walking around with a pen and pad asking your employees how many people they served last year? In the past, the technology and systems simply haven’t been in place to understand these patient/member communities.

In real-time, Aunt Bertha tracks data related to the demand for specific social programs and the number of resources available to meet those demands. Our inventory reporting helps you clearly understand the current organizations offering programs by geographic location. Nationally, we have a plethora of programs across thousands of domestic providers. 

 Social Service Programs Across the US

Image: Aunt Bertha's customers can see - in real-time - the number of programs of all types in their community through an interactive reporting dashboard powered by Tableau, a world leader in reporting and data visualization software.

Additionally, our data team keeps the information up-to-date, and is constantly sourcing more information. With Aunt Bertha’s data and analytic tools, organizations can better understand the specific social needs of the population they serve and gaps that may exist in the system causing those needs to go unmet. 

However, there’s something even more interesting that our customers are seeing.

What if you could truly understand the needs in your community - in real-time? What if you could see reports that show you the exact number of people looking for food in the neighborhoods you serve? Or what if you provide subsidized dental services and you wanted to know which neighborhoods need the help? 

We believe this kind of data can lead to insights which can change the way social services are found and delivered - and ultimately - improve health outcomes in your community.

There are innovative, forward thinking organizations already looking at their own data to help people get healthier. And we’ve gotten to know some of them. For example, a healthcare system in Baltimore realized that some of their patients just needed a ride to their appointment. If someone who leaves a hospital just shows up to their next follow-up appointment, they are less likely to end up in the emergency room. This hospital system partnered with Uber, and granted these individuals $100 credits to and from the hospital. This is an example of data driven, innovative thinking that will drive down healthcare costs.   

Want to learn more? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how Aunt Bertha's Social Service Analytics can help your organization identify trends, cut costs, and effectively guide your decision making.

 Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

Leveraging Data to Guide Funding Decisions

The holiday season is an important time to connect with loved ones, reflect on our lives, and appreciate what we have. In 2015, our founder, Erine Gray, was awarded the GLG Social Impact Fellowship for his efforts in helping make human service programs more accessible to those in need. Near the end of the year, GLG generously offered to make a contribution, in Aunt Bertha’s name, to the charity of our choice.

When organizations decide to fund programs, services, or missions, there are many different philosophies to help guide their decision making process. Initially, we leaned towards the idea of helping a local organization operating in Austin, TX. However, when we discussed this internally, our Chief Information Officer, Stu Scruggs, had a bright idea. He thought, since Aunt Bertha is a data rich organization that collects information from federal, state, and local programs nationwide, why don’t we conduct an analysis and determine the area that needs the gift most?

Aunt Bertha has data on available programs for each county around the country, and we regularly look at income and poverty rates for these respective areas. Typically, Aunt Bertha’s robust data strategy is used to help more people reach self-sufficiency, but we quickly realized the data was useful to better identify, and select a worthy recipient.

We dove right into the data, and easily determined one of the poorest counties in the country that could really use the extra help this holiday season (below).


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After a little research on the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Area Income and Poverty Estimate (SAIPE)’s database, Aunt Bertha quickly concluded that Shannon, South Dakota would greatly benefit from the money. The county is entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and contains part of Badlands National Park. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, “Shannon County’s population of roughly 13,500 has over 52% of the entire population living at, or below the poverty line.” In May 2015, Shannon County was renamed to Oglala Lakota County, named for the tribal nation that lives there. After the initial research, we ran a program inventory analysis, and looked at the available resources in the specific area.

As we started looking into it, we found a few organizations doing good work in Oglala Lakota. Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation stood out to us because of its reputation and mission: “Empowering Lakota youth & families to improve health, culture and environment of our communities through the healing and strengthening of cultural identity.” Thunder Valley runs multiple projects, and Aunt Bertha helped fund the Youth Shelter Project that serves to shelter at-risk children.


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Teams of all shapes and sizes take advantage of data to help drive their decision making processes. Aunt Bertha helps not only program seekers, but also hospitals and healthcare systems to better understand their communities, and successfully provide holistic care.  

Want to learn more about how Aunt Bertha can help your organization with better data? Join us on Wednesday, January 20th @ 12:00PM CST to learn more about how your organization can leverage data to identify trends, and effectively guide your decision making. 

 Webinar Registration

 

Topics: leadership Erine Gray data social good reporting analytics

Five Things to Consider in Your Social Service Coordination Efforts

People in need, as well as those helping them, have traditionally encountered many challenges around finding and connecting to the programs and resources that can help them. For individuals, especially those without easy internet access, it’s difficult to uncover the state and government-funded programs for which they qualify and even more so to discover the myriad of private and charitable resources available.

Case workers, social workers, families, and others in a helping role are presented with another set of challenges including time constraints, unstructured data, incorrect or outdated information, and lack of insight into programs and services available outside of their local areas.

For care teams, a lack of formal processes around identifying patient social needs and follow up also make it nearly impossible to ‘close the loop’ on whether the patient was able to connect and receive help after the referral was made.

To make matters more difficult, not everyone is comfortable offering information about their personal needs and those needs often go undiscovered, undocumented, and excluded from the care plan. Expeditious and personalized social coordination is key to improving many of the metrics health care organizations are tracking for success and is no longer a component of patient care that can be ignored without consequence. 

As people begin working to organize or increase social service coordination within their care settings, here are five areas to consider:

  1. COMMUNICATION. Make sure questions around social needs are part of the process at various stages of the patient journey. People have different comfort levels with different staff members. Don’t leave it to discharge planners alone to uncover outside factors influencing patient health and wellness. In addition, work to improve communication and collaboration among care teams at all points along the care continuum. According to expert Cheri Lattimer, Executive Director for the Case Management Society of America (CMSA) and National Transitions of Care Coalition (NTOCC), integrated care teams that effectively communicate during transitions and throughout the other stages in the patient journey see higher staff and patient engagement, as well as, an overall improvement in health outcomes. 
  2. ALWAYS INCLUDE CASE MANAGERS/SOCIAL WORKERS. Keep case management and social service teams in the loop at all times. Their function is an integral part of a patient-centered care plan.
  3. STANDARDIZE. Set up a uniform way to manage social coordination within the organization and work to get everyone ‘on the same page’. It will enhance efficiencies and make it easier to track progress. Providing standardized tools and processes will also help care teams eliminate information silos and function more cohesively when addressing patient needs that fall outside of the medical spectrum.
  4. EMPOWER. Empower everyone (including the patient and those helping him) to get involved in creating a good outcome. One way is by providing an easy way for everyone to find and connect with the programs and services that can help them stay well. Since patient needs outnumber staff resources, facilitating patient involvement is a good way to distribute the case load. Most people want to help themselves and are willing to take the proper steps if pointed in the right direction. 
  5. Analyze the data and monitor trends. Uncovering service gaps can provide insight and drive smarter decisions within the organization. Efficient and timely social coordination improves health outcomes, as well, as patient satisfaction. 
Social factors impacting patient health is no longer a topic of discussion solely reserved for discharge planners coordinating transitions. It’s in the best interest of everyone involved in the patient’s journey to be informed and empowered to help when necessary.
Topics: Social Services access to social services care coordination

Is Social Service Coordination included in your Treatment Plans?

It’s been well documented that social factors play a significant role in people’s health.  In fact, studies show that up to 40% of a person’s overall health outcome can be attributed to things like food stability, transportation, housing, and employment.  

 

 

It’s becoming increasingly clear to providers that achieving the triple aim of better patient care, improved health outcomes and lower costs, will require more focus and better coordination around patient needs that fall outside of the healthcare setting.  New payer models are contributing to the rapid acceleration toward more patient-centered care but many are asking, is enough emphasis being placed on social determinants impacting people’s health?

Under the Affordable Care Act's Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, hospitals are fined significant penalties for repeated admissions that are deemed preventable.  The reality is that multiple readmissions are not always due to of a lack of quality care but rather social factors that are not controllable by hospitals and are not taken into consideration in penalty calculations.  Consider the diabetic who doesn’t have access to healthier foods, lacks adequate transportation to follow up appointments, or is forced to choose between basic needs; healthier food or medication?  Medication or rent?

Health care organizations that implement a standardized process for social service coordination and make it a consistent part of the patient journey will not only create direct economic benefits, it will positively affect patient engagement and satisfaction, as well.  In addition, creating a standardized process of addressing social factors hindering patient wellness allows providers to better track and report trends which ultimately leads to better business decisions.     

Aurora Sinai Medical Center in Milwaukee went a step further in their efforts to address outside social factors impacting patient health by placing social workers in the ER department full time.  They realized that among their patient population, the highest utilizers of emergency room services were constantly in crisis.  They weren’t thinking about scheduling appointments and planning ahead but rather where they were going to sleep or whether they could get groceries. Over a monitored period of time, the social workers began helping patients schedule appointments to see a doctor and coordinated services such as transportation and child care services for the appointment. The results were measurable. Visits by the selected targeted group to the Aurora Sinai emergency room fell by 68 percent, from 487 to 155. Compared to four months before the program was implemented, costs fell from $1.5 million to $440,000. (Kodjak 2015). 

Equipping healthcare staff with the tools and processes to facilitate social service coordination is a win-win-win for both patients and providers, as well as, health care plans covering the costs.  It’s also a great step in shift toward patient-centered care.    

Topics: social determinants of health health care patient care

What the Search Data Can Tell Us about Community Needs

We live in an increasingly networked world that enables us to find information in seconds and even lets us do things that a few years ago seemed impossible. Want to know how well you slept? There is a device for that. Hate driving? Autonomous vehicles will be hitting the roads soon. Need help finding food or rental assistance in your area? Good luck. Using a typical search engine to find help produces page after page of disorganized information. Often times, the lists even include predatory programs that aren’t actually designed to help those in need.

With seekers having trouble even finding programs, it’s not surprising that nonprofits and governments have an incomplete view of their communities. Are residents accessing the services they need? Are the best programs being funded in the areas where they’re most needed? In many communities, nonprofits and governments cannot answer those questions with confidence.

At Aunt Bertha, we’re doing our part to help answer those questions by making social services information more accessible. We help seekers instantly find programs and services in their area. Each of those searches is logged in our system and helps us provide a snapshot for each community where we have listings. In some cases, the results are what we’d expect: spikes in searches for emergency shelter after a natural disaster. But, we’re also seeing more unexpected results: consistent searches for work programs in communities with dropping unemployment rates. Take Dallas/Fort Worth as an example. From January to May of this year, the unemployment rate steadily declined. But search data from those same months tells a different story.

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We know that additional analysis is needed before we can draw definitive conclusions, but this data provides a starting point for that further analysis to understand the why behind the search results.

Our data can also help governments and nonprofits evaluate simple supply and demand questions. Are we funding the programs that people need most? Again, using Dallas/Fort Worth as the example, we see a potential misalignment of service offerings and community needs. Housing and work consistently rank among the highest searched categories, but there aren’t that many programs available that provide those services. At the same time, we see the opposite with care and education related searches. We see lots of care and education programs, but relatively few searches for those services.

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While the data certainly does not indicate that we should divert funding one program in favor of another, it does help to tell a story about the community. We can drill deeper and look at specific zip codes to better understand the needs at a hyper-local level. This detailed view provides nonprofits and governments with invaluable insight. And, it’s that insight that we hope will lead to more targeted program development that is responsive to the community needs.   

Want to learn more about the needs in your community? Request a demo below, and we can schedule time to give you an overview.

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Topics: reporting analytics search data community needs