Frequently Asked Questions

BACKGROUND

What is an integrated data system (IDS)?

An integrated data system (IDS) is a software application that collects, aggregates, maintains, stores, and reports data shared by multiple organizations that are working collaboratively. The ultimate goal of an IDS is to effectively integrate data, people, and processes across organizations to produce insight and intelligence that can be acted upon.

What types of data can end up in an integrated data system (IDS)?

Using human services as an example, data created and maintained by organizations focused on behavioral health, workforce development, juvenile and adult justice, homelessness, general health, vital statistics, education, housing and financial assistance, employment, and child welfare.

How can a sector benefit from using data aggregated in an integrated data system (IDS)?

We’ll continue using human services to illustrate. Data is typically maintained in isolated, disconnected silos, which inhibits care coordination for those obtaining service from multiple providers. Without access to integrated data, caregivers lack a complete picture of an individual or family’s situation. They are likely “blind” to valuable information that could significantly change a person’s outcome.

The advantage of an integrated data system is it provides care givers with better insight and better answers, which helps them make better decisions and ultimately results in better outcomes for people receiving services.

What type of functionality is contained within an integrated data system (IDS)?

Important functionality within an IDS includes:

  • Automating participant intake
  • Referring people and managing their activity across programs
  • Scheduling
  • Ad-hoc and standardized reporting
  • Case management
  • Workflow automation
  • Form development
  • Integration with external data sources
  • Activity logging/auditing
  • Automated alerting
  • Accessing a participant portal
  • Managing user permissions

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Why should the human services sector increase the use of integrated data systems (IDS)?

Because individual organizations and the sector as a whole desperately need to improve service delivery and how care is coordinated. This cannot be accomplished without considerably more data integration, both within and between organizations. An IDS is the vehicle for this.

THE PLATFORM

What is Altrulink?

Altrulink is a customizable, secure, open-source integrated data system (IDS) that solves interoperability challenges by simplifying data intake, tracking, and reporting.

Who is Altrulink geared toward?

Our clients include service providers, program participants and funders.

What makes Altrulink different from other products and services on the market?

From the beginning, Altrulink was designed to be a highly configurable integrated data system for use by different organizations with unique process flows and data requirements, not an off-the-shelf case management tool being repurposed as an IDS.

Altrulink is completely built using open source technologies. This promotes a business model that is fundamentally different than traditional software licensing arrangements. It’s based around community funding for shared benefit and platform sustainability.

How flexible is Altrulink? Is it customizable?

Unlike other systems in the marketplace, all facets of Altrulink have been designed to be extremely customizable. Also, an in-house developer or third-party consultant is not needed to actively support platform customization and modifications on an ongoing basis. This keeps costs down and allows for changes to be made quickly.

Is Altrulink easy to use?

Yes. Altrulink is an intuitive, user-friendly web-based application. Accessible from desktops or mobile devices, it can be used and administered with just a small amount of training needed. This is especially beneficial for organizations that experience a lot of employee turnover.

What kind of support is available for Altrulink users?

We have a remote support center located in East Hartford, CT for onsite or web-based administrator training. Altrulink also provides video training, video instruction embedded in the application, and an online end-user guide that is accessible from any page within Altrulink.

What is the Altrulink product roadmap?

Today, Altrulink can be used by organizations that want to automate the workflow management of one or more programs, starting with the intake process. It has been partially developed for use by multiple organizations to share data and manage participant activity across programs.

The platform currently includes a feature-rich form builder, automated intake workflows, algorithm-driven entity matching, powerful ad hoc reporting, intelligent mapping of imported data files to new or existing forms, activity tracking, and sophisticated user permissions management.

Our current focus is further developing functionality for participant referrals, scheduling, third-party integration, and a participant portal. Also, continually tightening privacy and security controls is an ongoing priority.

What does it mean that Altrulink is “open source?”

Linux, PHP, NoSQL, and other open source tools are used to develop the Altrulink platform. The Altrulink core source code will be released under an open source license, such as Apache 2.0. Our preference for open source-based solutions is tied to reliability, cost control, improved security, flexibility, and freedom from vendor lock-in.

How much does Altrulink cost?

Core functionality is available to organizations without licensing fees attached. We charge for consulting, application hosting, and ongoing support on a case-by-case basis. When additional functionality is needed, Novus charges for the customization effort and any associated ongoing support required. The new functionality is then available to other users of the platform. It is our approach for promoting a collaborative, community-based solution to sustainable data management.

Novus’ goal with Altrulink is to cost-effectively address key challenges facing human services nonprofits and their funders. Our pricing philosophy is based on being profitable and sustainable, as long as organizations using the software can afford it and are materially benefiting from it—individually and as a community.

We look at each client situation on its own and determine pricing based on our cost relating to several variables:

  • Amount of assessment effort to define exactly what is needed, how much customization to the core Altrulink application is required, and the implementation complexity (acceptance testing, training, etc.)
  • Development time
  • Cloud infrastructure resources required
  • Ongoing administrator and end-user support needed

THE DATA

How does Altrulink keep data private and secure?

Within our secure hosting environment, we exercise full separation between collected participant data and program data, with the ability to detach participants from a subscribed program to allow for complete record anonymization. Altrulink is designed for role-based access and requires consent for data sharing, measures that are applied to all areas of the system.

The core data architecture is designed to adhere to standards including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), and the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS).

Does Altrulink share my data?

Altrulink contains a sophisticated permissions management feature that governs who has access to what data. User permissions are overseen by the program administrator or, in the case of multiple organizations, designated program administrators from organizations that have established data sharing agreements. Novus Insight never shares Altrulink data of any kind with third parties.

How does Altrulink maintain data integrity?

Altrulink maintains data integrity in a number of ways:

  • Duplicate data is removed during the import process
  • Backups are taken every 15 minutes and stored in multiple off-site locations
  • A least privilege model is in place as one of the access control measures
  • Every event (create, delete, read, modified) is recorded
  • Every event is aligned to a user and time stamped to verify the event timing

NOVUS INSIGHT

Who is Novus Insight?

Novus is a technology services and application development firm with 50+ employees, headquartered in East Hartford, CT. We are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit.

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Why did Novus Insight develop Altrulink?

Working closely with foundations, human services agencies, and other funders for over 10 years, we’ve witnessed constant frustration due to lack of access to data, inability to manage critical data, and difficulty measuring impact.

We have also had an up-close look at grantees’ problems tied to collecting, aggregating and interpreting data, not to mention a myriad of reporting challenges. Their predicaments became much worse as soon as data management extended outside an organization to funders, referring agencies, government entities, etc. It was obvious that care coordination was disjointed and inefficient.

Seeking to help solve these issues, we developed Altrulink, a customizable, integrated data system that we believe is the most practical approach to substantially improving multiple organizations’ process for aggregating collected data and effectively sharing it.

By developing Altrulink, Novus is expanding on our mission of being a purpose-driven organization, through a solution that helps solve serious societal problems. Mismanaging critical data in the human services sector negatively impacts peoples’ lives. We hope to lessen the frequency of this occurring by making Altrulink affordably available to organizations that will benefit from it.