An electronic tracking system that may improve care at health clinics for low-income patients is under consideration thanks to a senior capstone project by supply chain management students at Wright State’s Raj Soin College of Business.
The students presented their project to leaders at Five Rivers Health Centers on April 17.
The students are those of Larry Weinstein, professor of supply chain management and leader of the college’s supply chain management capstone projects. The students include Daniel Kidd, of Ft. Wayne, Indiana; Khamis Alwishahi, of the United Arab Emirates; and Khadejah Almomin, Fahad Albaluchi and Aqeelah Alhajji, all of Saudi Arabia.
Five Rivers Health Centers is a federally qualified system that serves low-income patients, primarily Medicaid and uninsured patients. It consists of seven centers in the Dayton area and one in Xenia, offering primary, medical-surgical, women’s health, dental and pediatric care as well as health care for the homeless.
Patients in need are referred by physicians and nurse practitioners to the centers, which in turn either treat the patients or refer them to outside specialists. With the referral system being paper-intensive and with an average of as many as 90 referrals a day, managers are often overwhelmed. They must fill out the paperwork on each patient, send it to the specialists and then follow up to make sure the patient gets an appointment and the best service.
“We have a very high standard as to what happens with a referral,” said Diane Cummins, chief operating officer of Five Rivers. “We knew it was a process that wasn’t working as well as maybe it could.”
The Wright State students launched their senior capstone project in January. They spent several hours visiting three of the clinics, observing and collecting information on the referral process. Then they created Excel spreadsheets to track the referrals electronically.
“We had to learn things as we went along,” said Kidd. “I remember we spent a whole Sunday trying to get a certain button to work. But we wanted to do a good job. We wanted to make sure we were able to do something the clinics wanted.”
The students ultimately recommended that the centers use the Excel electronic tracking system, which promises to simplify and accelerate the referral process, save money on labor and paperwork, and improve the quality of services.
Cummins called the students’ work “very impressive.”
“You did a nice job of taking a complicated, diverse process and bringing it together into something that can be done,” she told the group.
Cummins plans to take the group’s suggestions to the staff and would like to implement the electronic tracking system in at least three of the centers.
“We hope it is a better patient outcome and better patient service,” she said.
Kidd said the capstone project taught him a lot about managing a group of people.
“It seems it would be a lot easier than it is,” he said. “But it takes a lot of effort just coordinating, getting to know your groupmates, the personalities, seeing what they can bring to the table. We are all supply chain management majors, but we all have different skill sets.”
After he graduates in April, Kidd will begin a full-time job at BWI Group, a Kettering-based company that designs and manufactures brake and suspension systems for automobiles.