Measuring Effectiveness and Outcomes Creating an Evaluation Plan
e. How do we analyze the collected data?
Analysis involves summarizing and synthesizing information so that patterns, trends or conclusions can be drawn. This is important for justifying or bragging about your program or initiating any changes. The level of sophistication of your analysis will depend on your budget, availability of someone with statistical or analytical skills, and how you intend to use the information.
Generally for most programmatic purposes you need only basic descriptive information such as numbers, percentages, proportions -- quantities that can show you met, lagged behind or exceeded your projections.

You may want to delve deeper, however, to see if there were variations among subgroups of your population, by days of the week, by provider, by patient age, or other variables. This type of analysis will require use of a relational database such as EpiInfo or Access and various types of statistical analysis. Try to locate epidemiologists or statisticians to help you with such an analysis.

Qualitative information (perceptions) gained through focus groups, interviews or other techniques is also very valuable. Qualitative information answers questions such as "Why? How? How much? For example, why do people like or dislike your program? Ask them to provide specific examples of program characteristics or encounters with staff. What recommendations do they have for improvements? Asking such questions sends a message that you are interested in their opinion and that you may use their suggestions to initiate improvements. Qualitative information also can be used to do an environmental "assessment" of your logic model and project.

In addition to answering your initial evaluation questions, look for any unintended findings or side effects, both positive and negative, that can be used for marketing or program improvements. For example, what prompted a local foundation to call you about possible future funding opportunities? Did they learn about the program from a school official or a parent? Did the graphics on the side of the mobile van catch their attention? Did they read a newspaper article about the program?

There are seven basic tools that can help teams in a quality improvement effort to help clarify quality issues, analyze data, and improve processes. The challenge is learning when to use which tool. Click on each tool to see a description and example.