Predicting injury and illness at camp – The benefits of electronic medical records

Electronic Medical Record
By Dr. Michael Ambrose

Given the many opportunities for serious mistakes and costly mishaps when delivering health care at camp, it is essential that camps do everything in their power to reduce unnecessary risk and liability. The American Camp Association Healthy Camp Study, sponsored by Markel Insurance Company, was a five-year surveillance project to benchmark camp-related illness and injury rates. Over 200 day and resident camps participated in this project, the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. The Healthy Camp Education and Monitoring Program, a follow-up to the Healthy Camp Study, is helping to explore the intersections of technology, camp health care, and professional development in order to arm camps with the tools necessary to predict where future illness is brewing and where unexpected injuries may occur.

Technology has been successfully used in many industries to improve safety and decrease human error. What might be the intersection of technology and camp health care? This article will discuss how electronic health records can help reduce medical errors and decrease risk by examining three specific areas: the health form, medication management, and health logs.

What are some benefits of electronic health records over paper forms?

Paper records can be cumbersome, easily misplaced, and cannot be readily used for meaningful decision analysis. Electronic health forms offer complete documentation that is legible and organized, making a camp clinic more efficient and helping camp health staff avoid mistakes. Electronic health forms can guarantee that all essential information is obtained and send automatic alerts to those with missing information. Electronic health records maintain security and privacy, allowing only authorized staff to review individual camper and staff health forms before the start of camp. Identifying and addressing medical concerns before campers and staff arrive will help ensure a safer, healthier and more successful experience for everyone.

How can electronic health records help camps reduce the risk of medication errors?

Misinterpreting medical information can be dangerous and cause life-threatening mistakes. Medication errors are a common type of medical error and a significant cause of adverse health events in the pediatric population.

Using electronic health records at camp eliminates the problem of illegible handwriting and transcription errors. Auto-generated Medication Administration Records (MARs) and medication labels can ease and simplify initial camper check-in and ensure safer and faster medication administration throughout the camp season.

How can electronic health records help camps prevent illness and injury?

Most, if not all, camps are required by either their parent organization or state health department to maintain documentation on every individual who receives medical care while at camp. Logging clinic visits on paper can be time consuming and inefficient. With multiple user access and data entry, electronic health records can improve the flow of daily clinic calls. Most importantly, they enable meaningful use of the collected illness and injury data. Electronic health records enable camp health staff to generate rapid reports and analyze medical data so they may eliminate risky situations from day-to-day activities. A camp director may analyze illness rates each week and uncover a gastrointestinal illness starting to spread through camp. A program director may review injury trends after each session and discover that a waterfront activity at camp is a cause for many sprained ankles and more dangerous than initially thought. Electronic health records can aid camp staff in their efforts to curb illness before it spreads and prevent future injuries from happening in order to keep campers and staff healthy and safe.

There is no question that technology has a place in the camp health center. Exploring the benefits of electronic health records to reduce the risk of illness, injury, and medical errors is an idea that every camp should consider.

Dr. Michael Ambrose, Owner and Director of, earned his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School and completed a pediatrics residency at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. He has been involved in camping and camp health for over 10 years.

For more information about and web-based health management, please visit or call 248-667-8687.

Electronic Medical Record
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