I know it sounds really dorky, but I’ve always been a big fan of technology.  Before there were chat rooms, I would dial in to a bulletin board system and post notes to my virtual friends.  I built robots for competition in high school.  I went to college at Georgia Tech. (I think that speaks for itself.)  I got cranky if I have to read a scientific journal in print instead of online.  But even though I had embraced technology and knew it could change lives, I didn’t really get how transformative it could be until I saw the impact of Vwazen Nou’s electronic medical records (EMR) system on the community we serve in Haiti.

Imagine what it would be like if every time you went to the doctor you saw someone different and they had no record of your medical history or even what medications you were taking.  You would have to remember and communicate everything about yourself each time!  That’s a pretty extreme example, but it illustrates how having an EMR system helps improves the periodic clinic trips that serve the Haitian community.  Another really important function of the EMR system is that it allows the health workers to keep track of patients with chronic diseases over time.  Even cooler, if a patient has a problem that needs intervention between clinic trips the health worker can contact us, a doctor can access the patient’s records stateside, make a recommendation, and we can send money if it requires a hospital trip.  Between the EMR system and the health care workers, we’ve seen real improvements in the care of patients.

Given all this, you can understand why we felt it was necessary to act quickly when we heard that the computer used for the records got caught in a rainstorm.  Thankfully, the Grace Network is sending a few people down to Haiti this week and one of the team members agreed to be a computer “mule.”  So Sunday John Dimeo (the guy who wrote the EMR system) and I took our nerd-dom in all its glory and bought a replacement computer.  (Actually, to be quite honest, John is quite the computer guy so he asked the really important questions while I checked to make sure we didn’t end up with something pink.)  We ended up getting a Toshiba netbook with Windows 7, Microsoft Office, a laptop case (water-resistant), and a corded mouse for $433.62.  The computer has about 8.5 hrs of battery life by industry standards; this is important since electricity isn’t a reliable commodity down there.  John set it up so that the user can easily select which language he/she would like (French for our neighbors to the south) and installed everything necessary for the medical records system.  He passed it off to me yesterday and it’s pretty sweet.  This afternoon I’ll give it to the “mule.”  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy casting glances at this little piece of technology that holds the potential to impact hundreds of lives.  It’s pretty exciting that I got to have a hand in something so transformative and I can’t wait to hear the stories of the lives it’s touched.

Jessica Pritchard
Vwazen Nou Treasurer

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