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TechnoTrends: Medical Management in the 21st Century
Accurate and up-to-date medical information is critical to the successful operation of a well-managed camp, and today's computer technology is prepared to handle the job with flying colors. Although medical modules have only recently become a standard part of camp management systems, they can be a thorough, convenient, and time-saving tool for the camp health center.
Medical modules must provide reliable information about medication disbursement and record treatment processes and make data available for compensating the camp through filing insurance claims or billing parents. Furthermore, medical modules must be intuitive for the health professional, easy to use, and closely integrated with other camper information in order to minimize data entry by the health center. Above all, a medical system must be designed to provide high levels of security — not only to safeguard the integrity of the data but also to provide utmost confidentiality for the patient.
Proper medical record keeping is not only a hallmark of sound management, it is also a first line of protection in the event of legal complications resulting from a health-related incident at camp. As with most medical record keeping, a good medical module will not permit users to alter historical information. Each record will be stamped with the user name and date and time of entry and will provide an accurate and thorough audit of health center activity throughout the camp season.
An accurate medical information database provides reporting opportunities that increase the cooperation between the health center and nonmedical staff. For example, division leaders can be kept informed of the special medical needs of their campers — such as missed medications, activity restrictions, or special health center appointments. A printed report reduces the confusion often caused by relaying such information verbally or through the camper. In addition, the printed report is positive evidence that the information was transferred accurately and on time.
A well-designed medical module will help users provide enough information for a sound audit. While somewhat arbitrary, there are certain essential data elements that are easily identified and can be provided for by the medical module. Most systems will provide sufficient flexibility to expand on these elements according to the requirements of the user. We can examine some of the features of the medical module more closely to see how they are organized.
General Camper Information
Emergency contact information should be immediately available on a camper's record. It will include the name of the person to contact and one or more telephone numbers and, if the camper has insurance, the insurer name and policy. For camps that issue medical or insurance forms as part of enrollment, there should be some indication that these forms have been received so that missing forms can be obtained prior to the camp season.
Some medical modules provide space for indicating special conditions that can be very important — if not life saving — in the event of an emergency. Typical entries might show an allergic reaction to penicillin or sulfa, or conditions such as diabetes or asthma.
Unfortunately, children are arriving at camp with more and more medications. A medical module will provide a record for each medication, showing the time of day for dispensing and the correct dosage. This record will also show the start and end dates for the medication and, perhaps, the name and phone number of the prescribing physician. With this information at hand, the system can print a medication list for a particular time of day, labels for medication envelopes, and other reports to organize dispensing and to provide a record of this activity. Some systems will keep an inventory of medications, flag the user if supplies are running low, and keep a record of camp-supplied medications that need to be billed to the family.
The medical module will record treatments with the following:
- date and time of treatment
- attending staff member
- presenting condition and circumstances surrounding it (such as where it happened and whether or not the camper was supervised at the time)
- treatment offered
- where treatment was performed (at the health center or somewhere off-camp)
- disposition of the patient (was she retained, returned to normal, or restricted from activities?)
- whether or not her guardians were notified
In addition, some provision may be made for reporting the treatment to an insurer or for billing the guardian for special health center services.
Once a treatment has been completed, the medical module may include provision for scheduling follow-up visits by the camper following treatment. This schedule will show the camper's name, the reason for the follow-up visit, and the time and staff person to see. Follow-up schedules help medical staff plan their day and, through reporting, provide information that will help division supervisors make the necessary changes in the camper's daily schedule.
The Health Center Log
The medical module can provide a health center log for manual entries, such as a missed medication, as well as automatic entries — provided by the system — for each treatment, follow-up visit, or change in medication. For archival purposes, the log can be printed daily or weekly as a permanent record.
Data Ownership and Data Security
In the interest of patient confidentiality, it is important that only authorized persons have access to medical information. There can be a question about who enters medical data — should it be the office staff or the medical staff? A well-designed medical module will provide some flexibility of data "ownership," assigning some fields for office access and others for exclusive access by medical staff. In general, it is advisable for medical staff to make all the medical entries. This allows them to become familiar with the history and needs of each camper and to make entries in a format familiar to medically trained personnel. A well-designed medical module provides login permissions to control access to medical records — sometimes separating fields into "viewable by the office" or "for medical staff access only."
Medical data entry is a daunting task if it must be performed in the few days before the season begins. It is more efficient to permit entry of medical information before this critical time, either through special software that can be installed at home by medical staff and whose content can be transferred into the main system at a later time — or by accessing camper records through a secure Internet-based system. With an Internet-based system, medical forms can be forwarded, as they arrive, to the health center staff who can enter information from home or wherever they may be. In an integrated camp management system, basic camper information will already be on file, and the health center staff will have more time to read, digest, and synthesize the information, or get clarification from the parents if necessary, before making data entries. Using this approach, there will be more time in the days before camp to make reports and ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information.
There is no question that state-of-the-art computer technology has much to offer the health center by way of time and work saving, convenience, and thoroughness in its record keeping. The end result for management is a happier staff, less complaints from parents, a better grasp of health center costs, and a reliable history of health center activity.
Dan Konigsberg is founder and managing member of CampMinder, LLC, the industry's leader in Web-based camp management technology. For more information, visit the Web site at www.campminder.com.
Originally published in the 2004 May/June issue of Camping Magazine.