Greetings everyone. We are Kristina Little and Sam Robison from the Louisiana State University Social Research and Evaluation Center (SREC). In pursuit of our mission to foster healthy social systems, the SREC team undertakes a wide array of activities (e.g., program development, program evaluation, research) requiring data collection and reporting.
Our work largely takes place in real world settings where there are barriers to consistent, complete, and valid data collection efforts. While paper forms, spreadsheets, and online survey websites all have their uses, each has drawbacks including limits on data validation/uniformity, flexibility, and post-submission data access by users. When it comes to data reporting and resolving data-related errors, Excel-based pivot tables and statistical software such as Stata and R can be powerful tools. However, providing accurate, real-time data and communications surrounding those data can be very resource intensive.
In the behavioral health world, we have worked on several projects where we were tasked with collecting and reporting out GPRA client surveys and IPP indicators. After slogging through this for years, making only slow and modest improvements, we sought out alternatives to the traditional way of doing things. One solution we found and have been using for a couple of years is Knack. Knack is essentially a web-based relational database (like Microsoft Access) but is relatively user friendly both on the back-end of database development (for “builders”), and on the front-end of access and use by data entry staff. In this system, you develop an “app” for each project. Each app has both data tables (objects) that can be related to each other in various ways, and forms (pages) that dictate how fields from objects are displayed to users. In each app you can have several forms and even different constellations of forms depending on user privileges (e.g., site manager, data entry staff). Data validation and display logic can be built into forms, and e-mails can be automatically sent out to either users or builders depending on form criteria.
Here is the home page for an app built for an opioid treatment and prevention grant. Each “button” is a link that leads to a separate data entry form.
Here is a screenshot of a form for providers to document Narcan distribution and education. In this form, multiple selections can be chosen from the “Type of audience targeted” field, triggering new fields to appear asking for relevant follow-up information (in this case, numbers of individuals present and Narcan kits distributed). The sums of “individuals educated” and “Narcan kits distributed” are automatically calculated as the user enters data.
Additionally, you can build in reports that can be viewable and filtered by front-end users. Raw data could be displayed here, as can summary data in the form of pivot tables or graphs. This functionality differentiates Knack from, say, Qualtrics, where users can typically only access data after it is manually exported and queried. This cuts down on the time and resources needed to run reports manually, while also allowing for real-time data access for program staff entering the data, the grant supervisors, and evaluation staff.
Here is a table from a form that displays data connected to a given user site. From such a table, data entry users can potentially filter, export, view additional details, edit, or delete the data they send to data collection staff.
Here is a visual summarization of monthly referrals from two program sites, based on information initially submitted through a form in Knack. Options to print or download tables and graphs can also be used in this system
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