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If you build it, they may not come: Understanding factors influencing use of a community resource referral technology

Fichtenberg C, Cartier Y, Burnett J, Ricks-Stephen C, Paulson G
Health Serv Res

OBJECTIVE: Identify factors affecting the use of a community resource referral platform among local community-based organizations (CBOs) and test strategies to increase platform use. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SETTING: Data sources included platform usage data and semistructured interviews. The study took place in a small city in the Northeastern United States from 2020 to 2022. STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed platform data and conducted interviews with local organizations and organizations in other communities to understand barriers to CBOs' use of the referral platform and identify strategies that might increase use. We then tested 4 strategies and assessed impacts via time trend analysis of platform usage and qualitative interviews. DATA COLLECTION/EXTRACTION METHODS: Platform usage data were obtained from the platform. Semistructured interviews were conducted with staff and leaders of 36 local CBOs and 9 external organizations. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Four years after launch, platform use remained relatively low. None of the tested strategies (data insight reports, a referral hub, tailored training, and a communication campaign) noticeably increased platform use. The main barrier to the use of the platform was the lack of perceived usefulness, mostly because existing processes for identifying resources and referring clients worked well enough and because many organizations were already required to use a client management or referral tool. Additional barriers included the lack of comfort with and, in some cases, active dislike of e-referrals, and lack of comfort with technology tools overall. Organizations that were most likely to find the platform useful and to use it were those that provided referrals for a wide range of needs and whose staff were not already familiar with local resources. CONCLUSIONS: Organizations seeking to implement referral platforms should not assume that local CBOs will automatically take up these platforms. For these platforms to succeed, much more attention needs to be paid to ensuring the platforms provide value to the CBOs they seek to engage.

Fichtenberg C, Cartier Y, Burnett J, Ricks-Stephen C, Paulson G. If you build it, they may not come: understanding factors influencing use of a community resource referral technology. Health Serv Res. 2023;10.1111/1475-6773.14234. DOI:10.1111/1475-6773.14234. PMID: 3774999

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Peer Reviewed Research
Social Determinant of Health
Not Specified
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Other Study Design