Syringe pile

Frequently Asked Questions: SSP M&E Software

Apr 26, 2021 | Kat Kelley

In April 2021, NACCHO, in partnership with the University of Washington (UW), released a funding opportunity to promote the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) of syringe services programs (SSPs) and the use of M&E data for SSP program improvement. Potential applicants can request funding to support the procurement and implementation of software for SSP M&E, and consequently, the Request for Applications (RFA) includes an appendix that characterizes the software and data management systems most commonly used by SSPs in the United States, based on the findings of the Dave Purchase Memorial Syringe Exchange Survey. NACCHO and UW are also hosting office hours in April and May 2021 for potential applicants that have additional questions regarding software. For additional information or to sign up, visit here.

This page includes in the content of the RFA’s Appendix A, Software Systems for Data Collection, Management, and Analysis, which was developed by UW in partnership with NACCHO. It also includes questions from potential applicants related to SSP M&E software that have been submitted via email, during the informational webinar, or during office hours. Additional questions can be submitted to Kat Kelley, Senior Program Analyst, HIV, STI, & Viral Hepatitis at kkelley@naccho.org.

General Questions About SSP M&E Software

This section will be updated with any general questions about SSP M&E software (i.e., not software-specific) from potential applicants to the Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation funding opportunity.

Q: How should I determine and budget for the various costs associated with implementing data management software?
A: This webpage includes high-level information about the costs associated with the software options most commonly used by SSPs including the annual or monthly costs associated with purchasing the software and additional costs related to onboarding, training, and other forms of support from the software company. Applicants should also consider whether they’ll need any equipment to use the software. For example, the tables below indicate which software options require Wi-Fi and which can be used “offline.” Applicants should also consider how much staff time they’ll need to budget for implementing software, such as developing data collection forms, developing an approach for reporting using the data, entering any past data, and training other staff to use the system. To help with this, the tables below include information about which software options have existing templates that can be used and whether they can be customized (see “Pre-structured vs. Customizable”).

Q: Is there any potential for continuation of funding for software subscriptions?
A: At this time, there is no guarantee that there will be continuation of funding after this project period. Consequently, applicants are encouraged to consider which software systems they can maintain long-term. Notably, there are free software options and some software subscriptions can be purchased in varying increments (e.g., a 1-year vs 3-year subscription). For additional information, review the tables below about common software options or visit here to sign up for Office Hours during which applicants can ask additional questions about software options.

Q: We are considering purchasing Salesforce’s Nonprofit Service Pack to replace our data collection system. Would this be an eligible purchase under the grant?
A: Yes. The software options described on this webpage and in the RFA Appendix are common software used by SSPs across the United States, but the funding can be used to purchase other software for SSP M&E.

Q: Can we include the costs of onboarding, training, or support from either the software company or a consultant in our budget?
A: Yes. It is acceptable to include the cost of onboarding, training, or support in the budget.

NEW – 5/14/21
Q: Can we use this funding opportunity to purchase and implement more than one type of software?

A: Yes, this would be allowed. As with all costs in your budget, they’ll need to be justified in the budget narrative, but as long as you can demonstrate how the purchases relate to the project goals, that should be fine.

NEW – 5/14/21

Q: We plan to purchase software, in this case Apricot, that can only be purchased in multi-year bundles, the lowest of which is for three years. Will the grant cover the entire cost of the bundle or just the costs for the third year?

A: Investing in SSP M&E equipment and software that will be used beyond the project period is a goal of this project. However, that is not normally the case with NACCHO funding opportunities, and consequently equipment and software purchases have to go through an extra level of review and approval before the budget and contract are finalized. Consequently, we anticipate that we should be able to fully reimburse the purchase of a 3-year contract/bundle, especially if a 1-year contract/bundle is not available. However, there is a small chance that, if selected, we’d have to modify your budget and only cover the costs associated with the project period. It should also be noted that you’ll need to double check with the software vendor, in this case Apricot, to see if you would be paying for the full three year subscription upfront, or if the cost is based on a three year subscription but charged annually, in which case we would only be able to reimburse charges that occur before July 31, 2022.

NEW – 5/18/21
Q: What software is best?

A: There is no “right answer” or best option, as each organization has different M&E capacity and needs. However, we encourage you to review the table below to better understand key considerations related to the software options most commonly used by SSPs.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: If we think we want to purchase one software but later determine another option is better, can we change our mind?

A: Applicants should determine which software option is most appropriate for their organization before applying and indicate the software they intend to use in their budget. However, funded sites may be able to revise their budgets as part of or after the contracting process if they are able to provide sufficient justification for the revision.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: Where on the budget should we put software costs?

A: Software costs should be included under the Materials/Supplies.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: If we received a quote from a software company, do we need to submit it?

A: No, you can merely include the quote as a line item in the budget and indicate that this information is based on a quote from the vendor in your budget narrative.

NEW – 5/18/21 (Also included on the general FAQ page)

Q: Should we hire someone or use NACCHO’s and UW’s technical assistance to set up our M&E system?

A: You should include sufficient staff time in your budget to set up the M&E system but NACCHO and UW can also provide technical assistance to support this work.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: Long-term, we are interested in using our M&E system and software to support billing of health services. Is there a specific software that might be best for this?

A: Of the software options listed on this webpage, the following are HIPAA compliant, which would likely be an important consideration: Smartsheet (depends on which tier/plan you purchase), REDCap (if sufficient steps are taken by the organization to ensure data privacy), neo360, and Apricot. We have also heard (anecdotally), but have not verified, that some users of neo360 have worked with the company to build out a billing and referral system. At this time, we are unable to provide further information on which software options might be best for this, but we encourage you to reach out to the software vendors you are considering working for further information.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: Can we hire a consultant to set up our software system? Do we have to know who that consultant will be before applying?

A: Yes, that is an allowable expense under this funding opportunity. However, REDCap does not allow this and consequently if an applicant is interested in using REDCap, the “consortium partner” would need to provide this support, which may have a fee (varies between consortium partners). Scroll to the REDCap section of this webpage for additional detail. And no, the applicant does not need to have identified the consultant before applying but will still need to budget for this cost in the budget narrative, which may be more challenging without a candidate in mind.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: What software can be used for both routine data collection (e.g., at each client encounter) and periodic surveys?

A: If surveys will be conducted in areas with internet access (i.e., an offline mode is not necessary), then there are several software that could work. Apricot, REDCap, neo360, and Smartsheet—approximately in that order—have the most variety in terms of types of types of survey questions you can ask and allow you to create “forms” for surveys that are separate from your routine data collection forms. REDCap in particular works well for surveys but can require robust staff time to set up routine data collection mechanisms.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: Is Excel too antiquated? Should we explore using a more complex system?

A: Nothing is too antiquated, as long as it works for your program and meets your needs!

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: We are interested in using a system that allows us to separate out information and run reports based on factors such as client gender, client race, and the site of service provision. What software options might work well for this?

A: While software vary in terms of the ability to run reports, at minimum, neo360 and Apricot should allow for this.

NEW – 5/18/21

Q: We face several major challenges with our current M&E system, including that information can’t be edited (so for example, if a client’s birthdate or name is entered inaccurately into the intake form), staff cannot have the same form open at the same time (e.g., if one person is in clinic and one working in the exchange), and there isn’t space for staff to add their own notes. What software options might help us overcome these challenges?

A: Boswell, REDCap, Apricot, neo360, and Smartsheet should allow you to edit information after the fact. All of those software options would also allow staff to use the system simultaneously. neo360 and Apricot both allow users to include a notes field on forms, and you could create a notes field on REDCap and Smartsheet.



bosWell

Additional information available at: https://www.boswell.io/

Features

Specifications

Cost

Free for community-based organizations1

HIPAA compliance

Not HIPAA compliant

Dashboard

Allows access to available forms and reporting.

System management

All staff who use the system have unique user log-ins and passwords.

Data collection

The forms are built by the SSP and include multiple options for question format.

Allows for anonymous, unique encounter and/or intake data collection (i.e., data collected at each client encounter/visit or at intake/enrollment). Forms can also be built and used for some types of periodic data collection, such as a point-in-time survey.

There is a parallel, optional system that allows organizations to enter clients’ identifying information, with their consent, to facilitate connections to care.

Data management

Data are automatically organized into spreadsheets based on the forms. Reports can be pulled for specified dates and downloaded (CSV or Excel) at any time.

Data analysis

The system has automated, real-time reporting. These reports include common, basic metrics, however, they are not customizable at this time—they are standard across all SSPs.

bosWell plans to expand automated reporting features and metrics.

Data privacy and server ownership

The system is cloud based, hosted on Amazon Webservices.

All data are owned by CBOs.

Onboarding, training, and support

bosWell works with SSPs to set up their systems and provides minimal ongoing training and support.

The overall system and the forms can be built to be simple enough to easily onboard new staff onto using the forms.

Pre-structured vs. Customizable

The forms are all built by the SSP, but within the structured format that bosWell provides.

Accessible on

Any device with Wi-Fi (desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet). No “offline mode” currently available.

1bosWell was developed as a free data management system for direct service community-based organizations (CBOs) and is currently used by both SSPs and food pantries. bosWell’s goal is to improve delivery of care for Medicaid members and the system can be used to connect clients back into Medicaid, however this feature is optional and can only be used with explicit client consent. The system also allows for client data to be collected anonymously.

Questions About bosWell

This section will be updated with any questions from potential applicants to the Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation funding opportunity about bosWell.

Smartsheet

Additional information available at: https://www.smartsheet.com/

Features

Specifications

Cost

Four different tiers of plans: individual ($14 per month), business ($25 per user/month), enterprise, and premier. The cost of enterprise and premier plans depends on the organization’s specific needs. Each tier offers different capabilities. Organizations can also purchase add-ons.

Need to purchase subscription for each licensed user.

HIPAA compliance

Enterprise tier for healthcare organizations is now HIPAA compliant.

Dashboard

Dashboards can display key metrics, charts, and images from various sheets of an individual project.
However, dashboards of different projects can’t “talk” to each other. Different projects are usually used by different organizations. For example, in some states, each SSP has its own project within the state health department’s account/plan.

System management

SSPs can have licensed users who have system administration capabilities and can create forms and free users who can fill out forms.

All staff who use the system have unique user log-ins and passwords.

Data collection

Allows for anonymous, unique encounter and/or intake data collection.

The forms are built by the SSP and include multiple options for questions format and features for conditional logic (e.g., asking certain questions based on responses to previous questions).

Data management

Limitations in how much data the system can hold. So for very large organizations, it can become difficult.

Major selling point of this software is the project management abilities. Can send notifications about data collection, display Gantt charts, and include a calendar.

Data analysis

Dashboards present some data, can run reports, and also customize automations.

Because of data cap, large organizations may need to export historical data to collect new data. Dashboards can only display data currently in Smartsheet. Need to have Excel skills to merge existing and archived Excel data.

Data privacy and server ownership

The system is entirely web-based.

Onboarding, training, and support

Can purchase trainings and support from Smartsheet. Support must be purchased in 10-hour intervals, which costs $2500.

Onboarding staff to use the system for data collection is simple, however, training to use backend data management and analysis features is more complex.

Pre-structured vs. Customizable

Almost everything is custom, however, there are templates for sheets, dashboards, and automations that can be used.

Accessible on

Any device with Wi-Fi (desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet). No “offline mode” currently available.

Questions About Smartsheet

This section will be updated with any questions from potential applicants to the Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation funding opportunity about Smartsheet.

NEW – 5/18/21
Q: We want to purchase Smartsheet’s Enterprise plan because it is HIPAA compliant. How much will this cost?

A: The cost of the Enterprise plan varies depending on the organization’s needs. We encourage you to call Smartsheet’s customer service team, which will likely be the fastest way to obtain a quote based on your organization’s needs.

REDCap

Additional information available at: https://www.project-redcap.org/

Features

Specifications

Cost

There is no cost for “consortium partners” and it is free to non-profit organizations who join the consortium and agree not to use it for profit.

Joining the consortium involves signing an end-user license agreement. Many small organizations are not able to meet the IT requirements to join the consortium on their own.

Organizations that are not a consortium partner can sign a contract with Vanderbilt University—who created, built, and own REDCap—for a monthly fee OR find a consortium partner that they can work with to get access to REDCap. Some organizations charge a fee to do this. A list of consortium partners can be found here. UW is a consortium partner and can host SSP’s REDCap data systems at no cost. If an SSP is interested in using REDCap and needs a consortium partner this should be mentioned in the application in “Planned Activities and Use of Funds.”

HIPAA compliance

HIPAA compliant—because users have direct control, REDCap can be personalized to fit security needs (not just HIPAA but also international standards). However, the organization will also need to take certain steps to ensure data privacy and HIPAA compliance (i.e., passwords, backing up data).

Dashboard

Easy to navigate between different projects, data collection tools, and participant IDs. Can use data collection tools longitudinally and track what has been completed per participant.

System management

All staff who use the system have unique user log-ins and passwords.

Data collection

Allows for both unique and not-unique (i.e., not tied to a specific client) encounter and/or intake data collection.

Can be used in online or offline mode, allowing for data collection even when one does not have internet connection. Ability to create online surveys with sharable links in addition to data collection forms administered by the organization. Includes a mobile app for use “in the field.”

REDCap is used internationally even in situations with minimal Wi-Fi/internet capabilities so would definitely be functional for SSPs.

Data management

The license allows for one organization to have one live system. This means that it can host tens of thousands of users and projects.

Data analysis

Can build some automated reporting features that users can easily run. Can export data to common statistical packages.

Data privacy and server ownership

REDCap is HIPAA compliant, so there is data privacy, however the implementing organization needs to undertake certain privacy measures (i.e., passwords, backing up data). Ultimately depends on the organization that is hosting the software.Vanderbilt explicitly states that they cannot access any of the consortium members’ REDCap profiles/projects.

Onboarding, training, and support

Onboarding, training, and support is dependent on who the REDCap consortium partner is. Some partners offer it for free and some for a fee.

Pre-structured vs. Customizable

Fully customizable but includes templates for data collection forms. Once an organization has programed questionnaires/surveys, they can download the data dictionary and reupload to new projects.

Accessible on

Any device with Wi-Fi (desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet). “Offline mode” for data collection without Wi-Fi currently available through the REDCap app.

Questions About REDCap

This section will be updated with any questions from potential applicants to the Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation funding opportunity about REDCap.

NEW – 5/18/21
Q: Is REDCap compatible with iPads and other tablets?

A: Yes, REDCap can be accessed on laptops, tablets, and smartphones. REDCap also has an app that can be downloaded on tablets and smartphones that allows for online or offline data collection. For additional information, see the table above.

NEW – 5/18/21
Q: We are interested in using REDCap but are concerned with our ability to maintain the system in terms of costs and staff capacity after the end of this project. Will there be future opportunities for funding and how sustainable would you consider REDCap to be?

A: While we hope to be able to continue to support SSP M&E, there is no guarantee that there will be an additional, similar funding opportunity in the future. However, an SSP can access REDCap for free by partnering with a REDCap “consortium partner” and it’s easy to move projects within REDCap. Consequently, an applicant could work with UW to set up their project in REDCap and then find a local partner who could house their project in the future. For additional information, see the table above.

NEW – 5/18/21
Q: We are considering joining REDCap as a consortium partner. Are there any costs associated with this, other than the staff time required to set up and maintain the system?

There is no cost to non-profit organizations who join the consortium and agree not to use it for profit. However, your organization needs to meet the installation and technical requirements which includes hosting REDCap on a physical or cloud-based server. If your organization already has a web and database server, then there would be no additional costs, if not, then you need to decide about how you will get a server. We cannot provide any technical assistance around setting up a server, that is outside of our wheelhouse, but if you have an IT department, they should be able to help you. Here is the license agreement that your organization would need to agree to, someone at your organization who can fully understand if you can meet it should review to understand any potential costs to your organization. It specifically states that if an organization does not have the means to setup and maintain servers and associated staff, you should not set up a REDCap system.

Neo360

Additional information available at: https://neo360.co/

Features

Specifications

Cost

Starts around $4000 a year, but cost varies depending on organizational size and complexity of project set up.

HIPAA compliance

Yes

Dashboard

Can be customized to show scrolling news alerts, updated training documents.

System management

SSPs can have 1 systems administrator, unlimited subsystem administrators, and unlimited users.
All staff who use the system have unique user log-ins and passwords.

Data collection

Allows for anonymous, unique and/or not unique (i.e., not tied to a specific client) encounter and/or intake data collection.

Forms are built by neo360 and the SSP during the configuration process. Can include a notes field on forms, and view historical notes from other users.

Data management

All data are categorized first by gender; the number and specific genders listed are custom to the SSP.

Can organize and search data by client profiles and interactions.

Data analysis

Can build some automated reporting features that users can easily run. Can export data to common statistical packages.

Data privacy and server ownership

Cloud based but can be hosted locally (for larger deployments).

Onboarding, training, and support

Onboarding, support, and training are included as part of the cost of the software.

Some edits to the system after the initial configuration may include an additional cost.

Pre-structured vs. Customizable

All forms within neo360 are customizable. neo360 works with SSPs to configure the software, i.e., to build site map and forms, which can take about a month or more.

Accessible on

Any device with Wi-Fi (desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet). No “offline mode” currently available.

Questions About neo360

This section will be updated with any questions from potential applicants to the Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation funding opportunity about neo360.

Apricot

Additional information available at: https://www.socialsolutions.com/software/apricot/

Features

Specifications

Cost

3 levels (Essentials, Core, and 360) with more features and higher cost at each level. Essentials starts at $4800 for 1-year, but organizations can receive a discount on multi-year packages. Software packages can be purchased in 1, 3, 5, or 7-year intervals.

All packages include a minimum of 8 users and 2 administrators. Additional purchase required if organization has more than 10 users. Cost increases with number of users.

See “Onboarding, training, and support” below for additional details on cost.

HIPAA compliance

Yes, all versions

Dashboard

Has custom banner notifications, can highlight or snap shot reports and navigate to other parts of the app.

System management

SSPs have systems administrators and users, the numbers of each depend on the tiered package.

All staff who use the system have unique user log-ins and passwords.

Can section off Apricot database into different sites or programs and then can limit staff data access, so they can only see the site or program they work on. Some programs use this feature to ensure that only certain staff, such as those working in grants or contract management, have access to certain data.

Data collection

Allows for anonymous, unique encounter and/or intake data collection.

Forms are customizable and have a lot of flexibility in how they can function. Can create tracking systems for unique client data or not unique data (i.e., not tied to a specific client).

Data management

Very flexible and customizable data management systems.

Data analysis

Very flexible and customizable automated reporting.

Data privacy and server ownership

The system is cloud based, hosted on Amazon Webservices.

All data are owned by clients.

Onboarding, training, and support

Training: Training can focus on implementation/onboarding and/or specific features. All packages include basic training. Core and 360 plans have mandatory one-time additional training fees for implementation. All tiers have optional, additional training at implementation or at any time during use.

Support: Support refers to ongoing software and technical support. All packages include basic support with optional yearly support packages available at an additional cost.

Pre-structured vs. Customizable

The software has a pre-existing structure but is very customizable.

All fields on forms are searchable and editable.

Configuration and implementation stage takes ~6 weeks for small organizations after purchase.

Special features

Can text and email through the system. There is a client portal that clients can sign into and fill out forms. Can bulk import data via excel, CSV.

Accessible on

Any device with Wi-Fi (desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet). No “offline mode” currently available.

Questions About Apricot

This section will be updated with any questions from potential applicants to the Building Capacity for Harm Reduction Monitoring & Evaluation funding opportunity about Apricot.


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