In many industries, the process of collecting data plays a fundamental role in making strategic decisions to track or improve progress. In the ABA therapy field, data collection is a familiar practice, as the effectiveness of ABA interventions relies on accurately and transparently presenting data. This presentation of data is crucial for crafting individualized Behavior Intervention Plans that fit each individual uniquely. In addition, the data collected after the treatment plan is implemented is also used to track progress and for the clinician to make informed decisions such as modifying or continuing the treatment. However, the amount of data that needs to be collected when putting together a treatment plan can be overwhelming, often resulting in data errors and inconsistency, affecting how the data is analyzed and resulting in misguided treatment decisions.
Too much data, too little time and resources: ABA Therapists anchored to analog systems
It is no secret that despite technological advances, many ABA professionals continue to use pen and paper when recording data and creating graphs– as a daily or weekly practice. To better understand the choice of manual data entry in an increasingly digital age, ABA Matrix conducted a focus group to understand the reasoning behind analog data entry.
Control and familiarity: The number one reason mentioned by ABA professionals to justify paper-based data collection was the versatility and control that pen and paper give ABA therapists. Likewise, those who prefer pen and paper consider themselves not tech-savvy; as a BCBA-D and agency owner from Texas describes her workstyle, “I’m old school, and I’m not technologically savvy, and I actually get really overwhelmed trying to figure out new systems (…) I like paper and pencil and old school Excel graphs (…) it’s not in my wheelhouse.”
Lack of time to learn new software: ABA therapists, more often than not, have their schedules packed with appointments around the clock, often making it hard to allocate a couple of hours for training. But even more crucial, as therapists prioritize delivering the best care for their patients, diverting time and attention away from them is not an option they would consider. A BCBA and agency owner from California stressed the need for handholding through explanations when learning a new system. However, ABA technology companies scarcely provide proper training, so she reverts to her default systems.
Regulatory concerns: Fear of not complying with HIPAA regulations keeps Applied Behavior Analysts tethered to outdated data collection processes. In the US, as per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, ABA professionals working with clients in healthcare settings are legally required to safeguard the data collected from their patients. Additionally, in most states, solo practitioners and small and enterprise agencies are required to retain the patients’ records collected for a specific number of years. And the way that providers feel safe about ensuring these two legal requirements are met is by recording data manually and storing boxes of endless documents in actual physical storage.
Precise data collection and compliance, more time with clients
While the choice to collect data manually varies based on the needs and preferences of each practice, these potential concerns can be mitigated through the integration of HIPAA-compliant technology paired with top-notch training. ABA Matrix stands out by offering an intuitive ABA software management platform with easy-to-use tools for data collection, analysis, reporting, and automated graphing. The platform is renowned for providing comprehensive training resources with 24/7 ongoing support– all within one place.
Adopting tech for data collection in ABA therapy yields excellent long-term benefits, including improved data quality and robust reporting capabilities. But the most important value for therapists lies in streamlining the data collection process, allowing therapists to spend more time with their patients, ultimately providing effective therapy outcomes.