• Presentation

Improving Efficiency: Implementing a Field Tracking System on a Large National Field Study


Rumsey, A., Parsons, S. L., Bergeron, D. A., McHenry, G. E., & Hedrick, M. (2010, May). Improving Efficiency: Implementing a Field Tracking System on a Large National Field Study. Presented at IFD&TC 2010, .


This presentation describes the planning, implementation and lessons learned from conducting a field tracking system on a large national field study, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Employing field staff for a large national field study is very expensive therefore, to contain costs management has a need to closely monitor field staff performance. The tracking system, referred to as the travel log, was developed to provide management with an understanding of the time and distance associated with traveling to and within an assigned geographical area. The odometer readings and time stamps provided an interpretation of field staff’s efficiency by revealing how working a geographical area was executed.

The NSDUH is an annual survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). First conducted in 1971, this study has become the nation's leading source of information on substance use behaviors and mental health. Approximately 67,500 NSDUH interviews are completed annually and data is collected in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

The travel log revealed insight into field staff’s performance that would otherwise be unavailable such as the number of trips taken to complete work in a geographical area and pertinent notes on field staff’s time spent. The data obtained from travel logs was also instrumental in creating estimated budgets for urban and rural segments to predict future costs. Challenges with the travel log began with data entry. Initially a field staff’s recorded data was compared to online mapping tools, however the researching and keying of each travel log was extremely time consuming. Another drawback to the travel log was the manual keying of data, therefore if field staff neglected to record even one piece of information, the data was unusable. The data gleaned from a yearly implementation of travel logs provides management with a tool for recruiting, retraining, creating budgets and monitoring costs in calendar year 2010.