In honor of World Autism Awareness Day, CCNY spoke to Autism Services, Inc. to shed some light on our full spectrum of services.  Thanks to Dawn Van de Wal for chatting with us!

1.  How did you first come to work with CCNY?

Our organization participated in the first cohort of GetSET and we received funding to use as we felt necessary in relation to the initiative.  We hired CCNY to assist us with understanding and developing data tracking tools.

2.  What does QI mean to you?

Quality Improvement, to me, is looking at a current state and analyzing it to see how it can be made better.  Through it we can identify trends, both good and bad, and make adjustments to ensure we are providing the best possible services while being able to prove it.

3.  What were your goals going into this QI project?

We had tremendous amounts of data but were not doing anything with it.  We wanted a way to identify trends in a variety of areas but did not know where to start.

4.  How does your role fit into the grander scheme of QI at Autism Services?

In my position as COO, I am a support to the QI Department.  I work with them to develop the various tools they use, whether simply reporting on incident trends all the way to developing effective observation and audit tools.  We work together to developing reporting mechanisms that are shared with the teams so changes that need to be made can be clearly identified.

5.  What does ASI do and how did Christa‘s recommendations help improve those services?

We provide a wide range of services to people with autism spectrum disorders.  Working with Christa and the CCNY team gave us a different perspective in how we looked at the information we were collecting and how we were reporting out on it.  We learned how to create data tracking tools in excel and create reports that have benefited both agency staff and our board members in better understanding the issues we face.  We completely revamped our quarterly QI meetings by developing goals for each program and quality outcome measures along with correction plans when needed.  We have many more systems in place to ensure quality in both our services and administrative areas.

6.  Where did ASI start, how far have you come, and where do you hope to be in five years?  Do you feel confident that CCNY’s assistance has given you the tools to forge on ahead on your own?

Three years ago when I started we had a few tracking and reporting tools but they were not providing information that was valuable or helpful to the stakeholders.  Now, just about every department utilizes tools that we learned how to make from CCNY and people have a better understanding of what is coming out in each report.  We will continue to look for areas that need improvement and develop functional tools for data collection and reporting. CCNY’s assistance and instruction was invaluable in this regard.  CCNY did not develop the tools for us, they taught us how to think about the data we have and showed us how to create the tools so we can transfer the skills to other areas.

7.  Do you feel QI is something all healthcare organizations should strive for?

Yes, absolutely.

8.  What would you recommend to a healthcare professional considering third-party evaluation/ QI before diving in, whether in terms of preparation, setting expectations, or infrastructural requirements?

I would offer that the tasks of developing data collection and reporting tools should not be added to an already busy staff’s duties.  I was brought on, at first, to specifically address this and having it be my main responsibility allowed me the time needed to create effective tools.  Over time, my role has changed, but in the beginning, it was helpful that I was dedicated just to these tasks.  It allowed me to fully understand the process, analyze each department separately, and take my time developing the tools needed.  Now that we have many tools in place, it is easier for this to be just a part of my job as the process does not take as long and I’ve learned along the way how to instruct staff as well to own some of the process so it does not all fall on me.