Assessing electronic health record readiness at your Boys and Girls Club program
by Michael Ambrose, M.D.
As the transformation of our world by digital technology continues, and smart phones and tablets guide the way we communicate, it is essential that youth programs leverage this technology to improve the flow of health information and do everything in their power to reduce unnecessary risk and liability. Given the many opportunities for serious mistakes and costly mishaps when delivering health care throughout the year, youth programs and camps, including those run by, are adopting Electronic Health Records (EHRs) now more than ever.
Technology has been successfully used in many industries to improve safety and decrease human error. In the youth program and camp setting, Electronic Health Records have the largest impact in three specific areas: collecting and reviewing health information, the administration of medications, and tracking illnesses and injuries.
Collecting and reviewing health informationPaper records can be cumbersome, easily misplaced, and cannot be readily used for any meaningful decision analysis. Electronic Health Records offer complete documentation that is both legible and organized, making a youth program more efficient and helping staff avoid mistakes. An EHR can guarantee that all crucial information is obtained and send automatic alerts to those who have missing information. An Electronic Health Record maintains security and privacy, allowing only authorized staff to review individual health forms before the start of a program. Identifying and addressing medical concerns before children arrive will help ensure a safe, healthy and successful experience for everyone.
Administration of medicationsMedication errors are the most common type of medical error, and a significant cause of adverse health events in the pediatric population. Using an EHR at a youth program event or camp eliminates the problem of illegible handwriting and transcription errors. An Electronic Medication Administration Record, or eMAR, can ease and simplify initial check-in and ensure safer and faster medication administration throughout the season. This technology aids staff in documenting when medications are given, and will ensure that they follow the "five rights" of medication administration - right patient, right drug, right dose, right time and right route.
Tracking illnesses and injuryTracking incident reports or visits to the clinic on paper can also be time consuming and inefficient. With multiple user access and data entry, an Electronic Health Record can improve the flow of daily clinic call, and most importantly enable meaningful use of the collected illness and injury data. An EHR enables staff to generate rapid reports and analyze medical data so they may eliminate risky situations from day-to-day activities. A nurse may analyze illness rates each week, and uncover a gastrointestinal illness starting to spread throughout the program, while a director is able to review injury trends after each session, to discover that a specific activity is a cause for many sprained ankles, and more dangerous than they initially thought. An Electronic Health Record can aid staff in their efforts to curb illness before it spreads and prevent future injuries from happening.
The less immediate and obvious benefits of Electronic Health Records are just now starting to be seen as EHRs are being used to propel youth program medical research efforts. Recent studies have evaluated head lice, food allergies, and disaster and emergency preparedness at youth programs, and with electronic epidemiologic data collected through Electronic Health Records, youth programs can now make informed decisions as they work to improve the health and safety.
Adopting an Electronic Health Record at a youth program is not always an easy decision. Every program and camp exploring an EHR should review their goals and needs to help guide decision-making and throughout the implementation process. It is important that every program assess their readiness to make the change from paper records to an EHR to ensure a successful transition. Some helpful questions to consider before implementation are:
- Are the program's administrative processes organized, efficient, and well documented?
- Are clinical workflows efficient, clearly mapped out, and understood by all staff?
- Are staff comfortable with technology?
Change is not always easy, and current processes may actually become less efficient with an EHR. Staff should be prepared and expect to change practices they may have had in place at their program for years, in order to adopt new best practices with an EHR. A designated leadership team and thoughtful implementation plan can help the program more easily adapt to the new system.
As we provide amazing programs for our youth, our primary goal is always to ensure the health and safety of children while they are away from home. We do this by using every tool at our disposal. We have instant access to social media in our pockets and on our wrists, and with Electronic Health Records we have the ability to access up-to-the-minute patient data instantly as well. There is no doubt that EHRs can raise the standard and quality of care delivered at youth programs and camps. Relying on handwritten instructions is a thing of the past, and easy-to-use, intuitive tools to verify allergies and medications, and to track illnesses and injuries is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to make sure that we can keep everyone healthy and safe.
About the author
Dr. Michael Ambrose, Founder and CEO of CampDoc, earned his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School and is a board-certified pediatrician. He has been involved in youth programs and camp health for over 10 years, and having spent several summers in camp clinics, remains devoted to the continual improvement of the camping industry and creating innovative solutions for youth programs.