Don’t have software? Make your own!

In the early 1990s, occupational health software was not nearly as prevalent as it is today, yet the need to keep accurate records and track patients electronically was no less important. Trudy J. Rumann, MS, RN, FNP, COHN-S, Marriott International Inc. occupational health nurse practitioner in Scottsdale, AZ, came up with a creative solution to the problem: She used an accounting software program to document her progress.

That’s right: accounting software — Quicken, to be exact. "There was no occupational health software that I knew of, but there had to be some computerized way of tracking employees and injuries," she recalls. "I had been using Quicken for several years and basically did a paradigm shift."

What that shift consisted of was using the existing template for creating a clinic invoice, but entering health-related data instead. For example, in the "date" box, Rumann entered the date the patient was seen at her clinic.

"For entering data in the Check Number’ box, I developed a two-code process for new injuries," she explains. Cuts, strains, punctures, and other general injuries were assigned certain numbers. Then a slash was typed, and a second number was typed in to indicate whether the injury was a slip, trip and fall, puncture, exposure, and so on. Where the payee’s name should appear, four different values were entered: Last name, first name, middle initial, and date of injury. Other boxes were similarly used to indicate home telephone number and the last four digits of the Social Security number. A final box was used to indicate open cases.

"This gave us a method for running reports," notes Rumann. "We were able to show both numbers and dollar savings."

She still had another challenge to overcome: Quicken could not talk to Access, which was on the corporate computer system. Not to worry: Rumann’s creativity came to the rescue once again. "Quicken had a utility that enabled it to talk to Lotus Spread Sheet, which in turn could talk to Excel," she explains. "And Excel can talk to Access!"

Five years later, she purchased occupational health software, but for those inter-vening years, a cannibalized program and quick thinking enabled her to demonstrate to upper management her occ-health program’s accomplishments.