The 3 biggest pros and cons of spreadsheets for wellbeing services

by Rachel Stokes on November 11, 2021
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In this article, you'll learn the pros and cons of using spreadsheets to manage your wellbeing service. This guide also includes:

  • Real life insights
  • Why spreadsheets aren't all bad news
  • Lots more

If you want to make an INFORMED decision about data management you'll love this new guide.

Every time I'm faced with a difficult decision, I often create a pros-and-cons list. The idea of listing all the benefits and potential pitfalls in a structured manner helps me decide which step to take. This approach can be helpful in work life as well, so if you're like many of the teams we speak with who are currently contemplating the move from spreadsheets to a data management platform, here are some points that could get you started.


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Spreadsheet (Pros)
1) Inexpensive
Because spreadsheets are inexpensive, many people have access to them. This makes sharing and distributing spreadsheets easy with little learning.

2)Accessibility and familiarity
Low cost means many people have access to spreadsheet tools, making sharing and distributing spreadsheets simple and easy with a minimal learning curve at the basic level.

3) Anything is possible
It doesn't matter what you set up in Excel, the same column can have numerical, textual and date data, and it won't affect your spreadsheet. No restrictions means you are in full control, right?

Spreadsheet (Cons)
1) Easily confused or lost

During my time as a community health improvement manager, tracking referral data efficiently across a team of staff was nearly impossible, let alone crafting complex formulas and calculations to meet KPI reporting requirements. In spite of controls, a formula could be built incorrectly and go undetected.

recently heard of a situation where an important spreadsheet was accidentally 'lost' in the system and unrecoverable. Is your data really locked down?

A data management platform like ReferAll can help you and your team log into one place, from anywhere. No need to worry about which version of the file you should be using and no chance of deleting a file by mistake. Referral data, bookings, review of the register and much more displays in real-time whilst being held securely on the ReferAll platform. In addition, we have a comprehensive history note feature that allows you to view all actions taken for each referral, by whom, date and time. Peace of mind allows me to sleep at night.

2) Time consuming

Deciding on which questionnaires to report on health-outcome data can be daunting. Often commissioner KPI's ask a service to demonstrate, for example, improvements in wellbeing but allows the service to decide on the most appropriate tool.

Because a software company like ReferAll has come from a service delivery background, we understand it's not just about the platform, it's about providing knowledgable advice and pre-built questionnaires that help you to meet NICE guidelines and demonstrate outcomes with validated tools.

The next step, and arguably more difficult, is applying complex algorithms to Excel spreadsheets IF you are knowledgable with creating the exact formula. Also, could there be a chance your calculations will be changed by a well-meaning team member? And what if you need to visualise numbers for referrals who have participated, combining those completed and those who have dropped out of your service? In ReferAll, we enable users to filter Outcome Reports using any combination of our 6 unique referral statuses in chart form. There’s no guesswork involved. No working late collating complex statistics.

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With built-in process reporting, outcome reports with visualisation and Export to Excel saveable templates, you can have the best of both worlds.

3) 360° degree access

How do your referrers make GDPR compliant referrals? Although there may be ways to do this, you need to ensure your processes are strictly adhered to by everyone, all of the time, or your organisation runs the potential risk of a hefty fine. 

What about referrers tracking their patients' journey? How do you make referrals meaningful for your referrers without spending additional hours reporting back?

From ReferAll's easy-to-use portal, your referrers can directly referrer patient's or clients with confidence. Medical information won't get lost in the post and referrals will be received within our secure platform only to the intended service.  

Whether your service accepts referrals from primary care, secondary care or community professionals they can not only make referrals on our platform, they'll be able to track referral progress and view outcomes of every patient whenever they want, from wherever they are.

Finally, but certainly not least, how do you offer transparency to your commissioners? In ReferAll your commissioner can login to the high-level Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboard to obtain clarity and transparency about the services and programmes you have commissioned. With KPI detailed reports on referrals received, uptake and completion rates, your commissioners need never be without the data they need to analyse service performance - saving you time and allowing you to focus on managing your programmes.

You may need a little time to move from Excel to a data management platform. Additionally, it may require some investment on the front end, but I have seen limited cases where the costs of improving accuracy, efficiency, and accessibility outweighed the costs.

Don't just take our word for it, Dan Goodwin, Health and Wellbeing Officer at Broadland District Council explains:

"ReferAll is intuitive and is already saving us so much time, which means we can spend more time helping people in our community."

Before you become overwhelmed with paperwork and spreadsheets again, this is a great time to consider how ReferAll help you.

What are you waiting for?

- Rach

Rachel Stokes

Marketing Outreach Lead

Topics: Referral Schemes, Exercise Referral, Funding, Evaluation, Data collection