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Don’t Know, Refused and Null answers

December 23, 2011

We had a recent question; “I understand that “don’t know” responses are not acceptable responses for the APR, but what about “null” responses?”

It is not so much that “Don’t Know” is not an acceptable response; it is that it should be true if used.

In the HUD definition and our HMIS training we emphasize that the meaning of “Don’t Know” is that the client when asked does not know. Likewise the answer “Refused” is defined that you asked the client and the client refused to answer. Lastly a blank field is reported as missing data for the APR, meaning that the question was never asked.

So if you have a client who is so confused that he doesn’t know where he spent the night last night, then ‘don’t know’ is a perfectly correct and acceptable answer. If a client is so paranoid that they refuse to answer one or more questions, when asked, “Refused” is a totally true and acceptable answer.

While the specific ‘rules’ around data completeness and requirements differ a bit from one grant to another the underlying assumption in the ESG and APR reporting is that if the overall percentage of missing or Don’t Know / Refused is above 10% that indicates a problem with the data collection and recording process.

From HUDS point-of-view, they include percentages of Missing and don’t know / refused in their reporting requirements for a reason. As ESG and other funding progresses to performance based contracting the reliability and completeness of the data becomes one of the primary performance items that will be monitored.

In terms of disability in specific, for APR reporting the only complete disability determination is one where you can say that you have “official” confirmation of the disability on file. As I understand it, depending on the actual HUD grant program requirements some APR filers are required to have documentation of disability for all clients served on file and some are not.

In the end the APR is only an official documentation of what you have done in relation to a given HUD grant. How important one or another section is, will be determined by your program grant and other funder requirements.

The APR reporting process in e-Snaps requires that the data for reporting be data that is in the HMIS system. It also allows for a short narrative where additional information can be added to clarify should you be serving populations such as dementia patients where an unusually high percentage of “Don’t Know” is to be expected.

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