Internship Reflection

Kate Walrath at FINDconnect: Developing virtual navigation tools to meet families’ healthcare needs

This internship strengthened my skills in identifying a research question, planning and implementing the data analysis in both R and Tableau, and creating visualizations to support the results.
March 4, 2021
Kate Walrath

This past summer I worked with the FINDconnect program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. FINDconnect originated from Family Information & Navigation Desk (FIND), a program that was first piloted in 2012 to help connect families to summer activities and resources for their children within the Primary Care Claremont Clinic (PCCC).

Since then, FIND expanded its screening and referrals for families in the PCCC, and FINDconnect, a web-based platform, was developed to aid navigators in the screening and referral process. FINDconnect guides navigators through an opportunities assessment and other screening surveys. After completing the screening, it suggests referrals based on a family’s needs and their location using an algorithm built into the platform. By connecting families to resources, FINDconnect’s primary goal is to address preventative, upstream causes of illness in order to reduce health disparities and improve health of families throughout the life course. 

My task over the summer was to dig into FINDconnect’s data. I identified my primary research question when I learned of a pilot project that started in July 2019 which provides virtual navigation to families from primary care offices across Alameda County. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, I hoped to determine whether this virtual pilot project was as successful as the in-person navigation provided at PCCC. After getting acclimated to the platform and cleaning the data using both R and Tableau Prep, I created visualizations in Tableau to aid me in my understanding of the data.

When I stratified by navigation type, I saw that families enrolled in the virtual pilot program received more referrals and follow up contacts than those enrolled in the clinic. While families enrolled in the clinic had on average more documented successful referrals than families enrolled virtually, the difference was not statistically significant. Digging deeper into these findings, I learned that for in-person enrollments some referrals were completed at time of enrollment given their close proximity within the clinic or nearby UCSF BCHO. While this was by no means a perfect study, it suggests that virtual navigation can and should be utilized to increase families’ access to resources, especially during this time of economic hardship. Ultimately, this internship strengthened my skills in identifying a research question, planning and implementing the data analysis in both R and Tableau, and creating visualizations to support the results.

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