The Aunt Bertha Blog

Improved Search Filters Make Finding the Right Program Easier

Our team at Aunt Bertha is creating much more than just the most comprehensive social services directory in the United States. We are committed to our mission of actually connecting people in need and the programs that serve them.

One of the ways we do this is by designing product features that bring our users closer to finding programs that are the best match for their needs. We recently re-designed the location, look and feel of our search filters with the goal of making it easier to narrow in on the right programs that are available at the right times and fit with an individual's personal situation and income level.

We moved the filters up to the top of the search results, so that they are more obvious to our users. We also separated the filters into three tabs based on the kind of content they focus on.

These three tabs include:

  • Program Filters: Details about a program
    • Includes hours that a program operates, whether it is free or reduced cost, and any specific languages a program supports

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  • Personal Filters: Details about who a program serves
    • These filters change based on your search -- what programs we found for you and who those programs serve. For example, below is a search for "emergency food," in Austin, TX. We found some programs that specifically serve veterans and families with young children, so we added those filters to the Personal Filters list. Filtering by both would show you any programs that specialize in serving either group.

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  • Income Eligibility: Asks for household income and size to narrow down programs that are based on specific income qualifications

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You may be wondering, how does Aunt Bertha know enough information about programs to create these filters?

The answer is twofold: We do this through the hard work of rigorous data collection, combined with the engagement of providers claiming* and updating their program listings.

Both of these approaches allow us to tag programs with increasing specificity based on who they serve and how they deliver services. Our goal is to continue to improve our tagging and partnerships with providers so that users know exactly which services are a good fit for them, and spend significantly less time hitting dead ends.

*If you are a provider of a free or reduced cost social service, we want to talk with you and help you claim your listing! Email for more information.

Topics: access to social services

Helping More People via LinkNYC

The team at Aunt Bertha is proud to be part of a new endeavour to make it easier for people in New York City to find the free and reduced-cost social services that they need with a presence on the LinkNYC kiosks, the world's largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi network.
Aunt Bertha has been an active resource for New Yorkers since we launched our free social search and referral platform in 2011. Over the past 6 years we've been happy to help tens of thousands of people in New York search for the programs that can help them.  We expanded both our capabilities and our program data for New York City and the surrounding areas through work with the Robin Hood Foundation beginning in 2014. 
Our new partnership with LinkNYC is a significant milestone for Aunt Bertha, as it moves us further and faster ahead in our mission to make human services information accessible to people in need, and the organizations that serve them.  People are able to use the "Help Services" feature at any of the kiosks in the city to access the Aunt Bertha program search and find programs to help with things like food, shelter, transportation, job training, legal services, and education.  
Access to the "Help Services" feature has been live for a little over a week now, and as we've begun to analyze the search data, we are seeing searches every few minutes, and all through the night.  We have seen people search for emergency food, addiction help, and additional support, and we hope that some have found their way to one of the many amazing NYC non-profits that are doing outstanding work.
You can read more about the program in The Atlantic's CityLab article: 'New York City's Wi-Fi Kiosks Now Include a 'Yelp for Social Services'
Topics: access to social services

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