Principle 6. Time frames for measurement are defined

Principle 6. Time frames for measurement are defined (e.g. 30 days, 24 hours) for relevance of observing change.

by: Dr. John S. Lyons

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Concept: Most existing communimetric tools use a 30-day period to define the relevant time period to describe someone.   The reason for a time frame is to ensure that change can be observed.  The purpose of a communimetric measure is to provide a measurement of a person’s story.   In helping professions, the goal is generally to help someone change that story.   So to be fully functional as a measure, it must be possible to detect important changes in people’s stories.

Background: In the initial applications of the CANS and ANSA this was by far the most controversial characteristic of the measurement approach.    We established a 30-day period for describing people with the original versions of the ANSA (i.e. SPI) and the CANS (i.e. CSPI).  Many people were not happy.  As we began to customize versions, people would argue for 90 days, six months, even one year as the rating period.     What was happening was that these assessments were not always being used to simply document an understanding of a person but were being used to justify service receipt.   In other words, an individual (or child) would have to have high enough needs so that funding agencies would allow clinicians to serve them.   After a series of these debates, I began to realize that the system actually created incentives to describe people to be as high need as possible and keep them sufficiently high need.   This recognition was one of the foundational experiences in the development of TCOM.  The system was not actually designed to help people improve; it was designed to prove that they needed continued help.   To this day, this problem remains one of the most fundamental unintended consequences of managing services rather than transformations.

Proof of Concept:  The CANS is now the most widely used measure for evaluating clinical and functional outcomes in public child serving systems in the United States.    Research has demonstrated that this measurement approach is sensitive to meaningful change (Lyons, Griffin, Jenuwine & Quintana, 2003; Lyons, Woltman, Martinovich & Hancock, 2009; Weiner, Schneider & Lyons, 2009) and is related to the fidelity with which an evidence-based practice is implemented (Effland, Walton & Macintyre, 2011).

This is the last post of the Communimetrics Key Principles series. All key principles are critical to understanding the theory of Communimetrics and all TCOM Tools.

Want to learn more about the 6 key principles and Communimetrics? Attend our 13th Annual TCOM Conference to meet Dr. Lyons and the TCOM Team in person!


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