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Projects > Process Mapping

Process Mapping


To study the flow of data in eight substance abuse treatment agencies for three major processes: admission, discharge, and transfer between levels of care.


Understand how substance abuse treatment agencies collect, manage, and use data and the types of information collected by treatment agencies. The study will focus on three agency processes: admission, discharge, and level of care transfer. It will describe how information is used to support agency billing and ancillary systems and provided to state and other regulatory reporting systems.

Project Impacts in the Field

Building on the information gathered in this project, systems can be created or extended to help provider organizations more effectively measure and evaluate efforts to improve quality. With improved data tracking and quality improvement systems, payers (e.g., states) may implement provider-respected payment systems that reward quality and allow for efficient and useful measurement, feedback, and comparison of provider performance. Finally, these results may ultimately support systems that effectively inform consumers about the quality of care.


The study represents a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin and Oregon Health and Sciences University. Drs. Jay Ford and Jennifer Wisdom are the co-principal investigators and the project team also consists of Dr. Meg Wise and Deirdre Mackey-Misztal. The study team will recruit a total of eight treatment agencies—two each in Illinois, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin—and will interview six to eight individuals per agency about the intake, discharge, and level of care transfer processes. The analytical approach will combine data mapping, a process improvement technique from the business and management fields, with qualitative inquiry, a facet of social science research, to:

  • identify the data (e.g., demographics, questionnaire data) collected and sources of data;
  • determine who is responsible for collecting the data and how it is collected;
  • describe and map how the data elements flow through the organization;
  • identify what processes (e.g., assessment) or systems (e.g., clinical or financial) the data are designed to support;
  • describe how the collected data elements are actually used within the system (e.g., state reporting requirements, process improvement); and
  • identify potential agency attributes or barriers that influence the agencies' ability to collect data.


  • Ford II, J.H., Wise, M., Wisdom, J.P. (In Press) A Peek Inside the Box: How Information Flows through Substance Abuse Treatment Agencies. Journal of Technology in Human Services.
  • Wisdom, J.P.; Ford II, J.H. and McCarty D (In Press) The Use of Health Information Technology in Publically-funded U.S., Substance Abuse Treatment Agencies. Contemporary Drug Problems
  • Wisdom JP, Ford, JH, Wise M, Mackey D, Green CA. (In press). Substance Abuse Treatment Programs’ Data Management Capacity: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research.


Jay Ford, PhD
Principal Investigator
Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison
(608) 262-4748