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The single source of truth

The single source of truth

There is a concept in business known as “the single source of truth.” The idea being there is one agreed upon spot where your data is accurate. Everyone from different systems/areas/departments agrees ahead of time where that spot is and it becomes the “single source of truth.” When any change is made, THIS source is always updated. If mistakes are made, the first question is: “Was the source of truth accurate?” It always should be.

This concept has real potential for supporting clients in the community. There are often many individuals and organisations coming together to work with a person. All with different systems and in-house procedures to adhere to. I have many examples where, as a team, we didn’t agree to identify the need for a single source of truth – let’s just say, in most cases, the results weren’t good.

A good example relates to booking appointments with clients. Perhaps you work with a client who stores some appointments on their phone, some in a paper diary, and some on a Google calendar. Without establishing a “single source of truth”, it can be hard to know what the client’s most reliable or preferred method of keeping track of their appointments is. Not knowing the single source of truth can lead to diary clashes and missed appointments.

In this situation, the key to success is identifying, as a team (after considering issues related to access, input responsibilities etc, for the client) which spot (phone, diary or Google calendar) will be the single source of truth.

Often having a single source of truth can also be supported by an agreed process that is followed by everyone involved.

Below are some examples of situations where a single source of truth can be useful. I’ve included some questions to help you agree on a process.

  • Appointment bookings
    • Decide where appointments are stored and who needs to be informed.
      • Should the attendant care worker (ACW) team leader be contacted to put the booking in the team diary?
      • Should workers input their own appointments into a Google calendar?
      • Should someone have direct contact with the client, who is supported by a worker on shift to put appointments in a paper diary?
  • Data sheets and daily outcomes
    • Agree on what ACWs need to complete and when.
      • How frequently do your data sheets and outcomes need to completed – daily or weekly?
      • Can there be one, daily outcome source with all allied health data sets saved in a single location?
  • Allied health documentation
    • Agree on what is required.
      • Handwritten notes in the person’s allied health folder?
      • Email updates to the team leader of the client’s group home?
      • Or, only document by exception – i.e. maintain your own clinical records for therapeutic purposes elsewhere.

One agreed system. Don’t mess with it.