Digital Community Health Improvement Plans or “e-CHIPs” are much more effective than paper-based CHIPs. Software systems are easier to update than large documents, so e-CHIP data is more timely and accessible. Online software systems are also easier to navigate than paper-based documents, making e-CHIPs easier to share with stakeholders, partners, and the public. These benefits can help lead to better decision-making, higher transparency, and higher impact in the community.
There are a lot of performance management systems out there to choose from, but not all systems are created alike. Many systems are tailored to the business sector and don’t offer the features needed to create an e-CHIP. These systems tend to be overly-complicated and expensive.
We’ve identified five critical criteria that your online software should meet in order to create an effective CHIP that can be used for internal planning and be used as a communication tool to educate the public. There are other features that will be relevant to you, like affordability, so these should be viewed as bare-minimum requirements in your decision-making process.
Easy to Use
Performance management and quality improvement are intensive activities. Engaging public health department staff, who typically already feel stretched thin, in these activities is often challenging. Your software system should make the work simpler, not more complicated. When a software is easy to use, it means less time has to be devoted to getting your system “up-and-running” and training staff in the use of the software.
Easy to Share
Public education and transparency is an important part of the CHA and CHIP planning processes. Additionally, a wide range of stakeholders and community members should be a part of the development phase. Therefore, your software system should support information sharing, transparency, and engagement. It should be easy for stakeholders to access your data. There are different ways this can be achieved. First, you should have the ability to “embed” your data on your website. When you update your data in the software system, it should automatically update the data in your embedded version. You should also be able to share links to your publicly hosted plans. Sometimes you can’t (or shouldn’t) share every piece of information. Make sure the system allows you to customize what data and information is shared on public versions of your plan.
The point of creating a CHIP is to create continuous, sustained improvements in community health. Therefore, your software system should provide an accountability framework that helps you improve your performance and impact on community health – not just measure it. In the system and framework, you should be able to track and report data that focus decision-making on achieving measurable impact for communities, customers, and clients. The system should provide a place for the context behind your data – narratives that explain the rationales for decisions and provide other background information.
Streamlines Departmental Planning
Why spend money on separate software systems if you can do everything in one? Community Health Assessments, Community Health Improvement Plans, Departmental Strategic Plans, and Quality Improvement Plans are common plans created in health departments. These are also all required if you’re looking to become PHAB Accredited. PHAB Accreditation comes with it’s own documentation and measurement requirements. Your work will be a lot easier if your online software system can support all of these plans. Housing all of your data in one place also removes the need to train staff in the use of multiple systems. Make sure your system allows you to organize your data efficiently based on whichever plan you’re working on.
Supports Equity Work
When racial equity is not included as a key component of decision-making, health inequities are likely to be perpetuated. To apply an equity lens to your e-CHIP, your data should be disaggregated by race or any other distinction you deem relevant. This will enable you to truly develop the range of strategies necessary to ensure that race and other factors do not predict opportunities, health, and wellbeing. To make data analysis as easy as possible, your software system should allow you to toggle between disaggregated and aggregated metrics. For example, if you’re looking at an aggregated (average) obesity rate in your community, you should be able to toggle between viewing the aggregated rate and the disaggregated metrics that make it up (Black obesity rate vs. Hispanic obesity rate vs. White obesity rate, etc.).