What was previously a paper-heavy process has been converted to a more streamlined system, thanks to the ingenuity and flexibility of Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) staff in Regina.
Sabrina Baiton is a Registered Nurse with a background in computer science who began working with the COVID-19 contact tracing team in Regina this past summer.
“One of the first things I noticed in the office was how paper-heavy the processes were,” she explained. “The Regina Public Health team was clearly doing amazing work, but the paper was causing bottlenecks as frontline staff had to hunt down charts and other bits of paperwork to put pieces of the contact tracing puzzle together for each positive case. There was generally, and overwhelming amount of forms, printing and paperwork.”
While cumbersome, the paper processes were at the same time invaluable to the work they were doing.
“We couldn’t lose them,” Baiton said.
But she saw an opportunity to improve them. Using her programming background, she used the limited tools she had available to turn the shared hard drive used by the contact tracers into what she called the Pandemic electronic medical record or Pandemic EMR and patient census.
It took just a weekend to set up the system and start using it, as Baiton was blessed with the full support of her director to move forward with this new idea.
Once it was implemented, not only were the paper-heavy processes gone, the new system saved 12 to 16 hours a day of manual data entry to create a daily COVID-19 positive patient census, and can automatically generate reports and a dashboard that updates every minute, so staff are completely up-to-date on what is happening with each case.
Sabrina Baiton is a Registered Nurse with a background in computer science.
Baiton and the team in Regina have done more since, including creating a tool to batch-generate blank case template folders that contain fresh copies of all the important documents needed for contact tracing, and created a simple Microsoft Excel form for handover notes that turns the shared hard drive into a database and acts as a communications tool to frontline staff, storing essential case information such as the state of contact tracing done for that case, is any testing pending, etc.
The work is now being replicated in Saskatoon.
“We saw a huge potential in using this electronic system,” noted Melonye Hynd and Andrea Worobec, both members of Saskatoon’s Communicable Disease Control team. “As soon as we learned about it, we got started on the process for converting to electronic charts, with Sabrina’s guidance and support.”
“We now have a fully electronic system for our charts.”
“I still can’t believe that my bit of rudimentary coding on the frontline has reached so many and is helping a team as large and as far away as Saskatoon fight the pandemic,” Baiton noted.
“Sabrina saw a need, developed a solution and made it happen,” said Suzanne Mahaffey, who leads the Saskatoon Integrated Health Incident Command Centres’ Offensive strategy. “It is this kind of leadership and critical thinking that so many of our team members have shown during this pandemic, and that is helping our health system survive the demands being made of it. It is a fine example of a provincial health system working and thinking as one.”