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Mae Tao Clinic 20 Year Anniversary

Mae Tao Clinic 20 Year Anniversary

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Published by Michelle Katics
This is the 20 year anniversary book for Mae Tao Clinic (www.maetaoclinic.org), "From Rice Cooker to Autoclave".
This is the 20 year anniversary book for Mae Tao Clinic (www.maetaoclinic.org), "From Rice Cooker to Autoclave".

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Published by: Michelle Katics on Sep 12, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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pharmacists can still dispense the prop-
er medications, and babies are still de-
livered. Without these numbers how-
ever, planning, a crucial element in the
development of the clinic and the ser-
vices it provides, is impossible. How
can you know how many anti-malarial
pills to order for July unless you know
the number of patients with malaria
you saw this June or last July? How
can you know how much money to
budget for medications and supplies
for the Trauma and Surgery Depart-
ment unless you know the numbers of
different surgical procedures that were
done? In the mid-1990’s the clinic
started recording this information in
computerized spreadsheets using Mi-
crosoft Excel. The information that
was stored at first was basic: name,
age, gender, and diagnosis. While Ex-
cel is good for mathematical analysis,
it is not so good for storing informa-
tion. The clinic started using an elec-
tronic database program for its medical
inpatient department in 2000. By 2004,
almost all of the clinic’s departments
were entering information into their
own Microsoft Access databases,
which were then combined into a cen-

tral database that the clinic could use
for planning, budgeting, and reporting
to donors.

Thanks to the generosity of for-
eign donors, getting computer hard-
ware and software has not been the
main challenge. Rather, the biggest
obstacles are developing staff with da-
tabase skills and knowledge, keeping
the system going as experienced staff
leave and new staff come on board, and
educating clinical staff on the impor-
tance and value of information.
Some of the best examples of the
system at work are in communicable
disease public health. As tuberculosis
emerged in recent years on the Thai-
Burma border, the clinic used its health
information system to determine the
proportion of cases coming from Bur-
ma. In 2003-2004, Tak Public Health
conducted a pilot project with MTC,
helping the clinic improve its data-
base’s ability to monitor 19 infectious
diseases of public health importance.
During a cholera outbreak on the bor-
der in 2007, the information in the
clinic’s database was used to conduct
surveillance for the deadly diarrheal

In 1995, MTC had only two computers –
one for Administration, another for a DOS
learn-to-type program.
Today HIS has 24 desktop computers and
11 laptops spread across 12 departments.

The next big step planned for the
clinic’s health information system is to
introduce a fully centralized database.
Today, to update the clinic’s main data-
base, staff members have to copy the
data entered on the computers of each
of the clinic’s twelve departments onto
memory stick “pen drives,” walk to the
health information system office, plug
the drives into the office’s main com-
puter, and import the data into the cen-
tral database. After 2009, the data en-
tered by each department will
immediately travel via a computer net-
work to be stored in a single modern
SQL server database. This will de-
crease the errors associated with manu-
al information transfer, and allow the
main database to be updated more

Getting accurate information on
time is the mission of the health infor-
mation systems department (HISD).
How many cases of a certain disease
has the clinic seen? What is the per-
centage of female patients? Where do
the clinic’s patients come from? These
are the types of questions that the HISD
seeks to answer, but before the devel-
opment of an electronic health infor-
mation system, answering such basic
questions was laborious. It meant flip-
ping through pages and pages of clinic
logbooks to get each patient’s name
and diagnosis, retrieving cardboard
medical charts from a filing cabinet,
interpreting the sometimes messy
handwriting of busy medics, and re-
cording the information in another log-
book to be added, divided, and ana-
lyzed. Not only was each step of this
process time-consuming to do by hand
but was prone to error as well. A line
in a thick logbook might be overlooked,
a name misspelled, a diagnosis missing
from the chart, or numbers added in-

Of course, even without the num-
bers, the basic work of the clinic can
continue. Medics can still see patients,

HIS staffs working time.


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