When it comes to implementing a referral system, there are numerous new technology-driven platforms to choose from that can help service an organization’s unique needs. Understanding the referral systems landscape and learning from organizations that have previously implemented these platforms are crucial steps to inform which system can best serve your organization and network of providers. Early adopters of referral systems can offer valuable insights into the overall process of transitioning to a referral system. They can also identify pain points that new users experience when learning the system for the first time. Mission United, North Texas is one such organization that can offer this perspective. They recently transitioned from the UniteUs referral platform to the CombinedArms (CAX) Salesforce platform.
Mission United, North Texas is part of the AmericaServes network and now part of the Texas Veterans Network, a program of CombinedArms. This initiative encompasses all veteran and military family serving efforts within the United Way of Tarrant County. It aims to connect those in need with Veteran Service Organizations, Community-Based Organizations, federal, state, and local government programs. We connected with Randy McGuffee, Director of the Texas Veterans Network at Mission United, to share how the network has successfully transitioned to a technology-driven referral system and what fueled their decision-making process to switch to the CAX Salesforce platform.
The Texas Veterans Network’s introduction to referral technology started with their usage of the UniteUs referral technology platform in January 2018, before recently switching to the Salesforce platform. Both platforms have provided the network with the technical infrastructure to capture, manage, and report client interactions. On how the system has aided Mission United’s work, Randy explains, “the ability to record information about what services are needed and what resources are available to address those needs is fundamental to informing policymakers about the gaps in services that exist for our veterans.”
When thinking back to the implementation process for the network, introducing the UniteUs platform benefited the team’s day-to-day operations. While there were some frustrations around the speed at which the software platform was updated to provide additional functionality, the essential data management functions that the network needed were there, and the platform fulfilled their need. According to Randy, there were two primary reasons for the team’s switch from UniteUs to CAX. The first and most influential is that the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) awarded a $4M, 3-year grant to develop a state-wide veterans referral network, and CAX was awarded the portion of the state that included North Texas. As such, Mission United was faced with potentially competing with the TWC effort if they did not structure a partnership with CAX. Second, shifting to CAX was more cost-effective as licensing the technology directly from UniteUs was costing 10x the amount of CAX.
Reflecting on the CAX implementation, Randy says that there have been few challenges and that the changeover from one platform to the other has been very smooth overall. From a Coordination Center perspective, both systems operate in very much the same way. The primary difference between UniteUs and CAX is not the actual technology but the fact that CAX has developed a “self-driven” process that allows those seeking non-urgent, non-emergent services to self-select resources. This process has been an added benefit, as it eliminates an additional communication barrier between the client and the organization. It allows clients to self-select the resources they want based on what they care about most.
When asked what advice Mission United, North Texas could share with organizations interested in building a referral system, Randy offers that organizations should focus on “your population and the best process for assisting them. The technology exists in many forms to provide data support. However, the critical piece is having an internal process that allows you to effectively connect clients with resources quickly.” Mission United’s emphasis on developing these internal processes allowed them to implement a referral system with more ease and deal with the transition between two platforms without impacting their crucial work supporting the veteran community.
Our team at NNSI has partnered with the AmericaServes networks to improve their networks’ effectiveness and share those results with health and human service referral networks across the country. You can read more about our ongoing research with them here.