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Physical Exams, Medical Exams, Medical History Software

Administering new physical/medical exams and keeping track of information from past exams is an important part of an occupational health program because they contain so much information. Likewise, a person’s medical history records tell the health care professional many important things.

We’ve all probably had the experience of filling in a health history questionnaire. “What diseases did you have as a child? (Check all that apply)” “Do you smoke? If so, do you smoke cigarettes? How many packs a day?” “Do you participate in any of the following hobbies?” “Is there any history of heart disease in your family?” The health history tries to collect information about the employee/patient and his or her lifestyle, personal and family history, past medical problems and more.

There are a couple of interesting (from an information management viewpoint) aspects to all these forms. First, they’re related. They are all really just a list of questions and answers. In some instances the answers may be general text, in others lists of choices. But at the heart of the matter each form is a questionnaire and answers.

Second, everybody has a different list of questions! The health history form at Company A is very likely different from the one used by Company B. Different jobs may require different questions; a firefighter is exposed to a different workplace environment than an office worker. Over time the questions may change, if only because different doctors want to know different pieces of information.

Many years ago DataPipe dealt with different physical history/exam needs by providing customized forms for each. Different customers would have different forms because the information they were after differed, as mentioned above.

One day we were at a meeting in the Medical Department of a large manufacturing company. Three occupational health physicians were present. An argument ensued over which physical history and physical exam forms to use; each doctor wanted “his” form used. So, depending on which physician an employee was to see, a different health history questionnaire would be used and, of course, different information would be collected.

This was the impetus for our developing the Questionnaires Module. The one module can handle physical history, physical exam and any other kinds of questionnaires. You may have multiple version of a questionnaire. You can build questionnaires for wellness, lifestyle and any other medical information. The Questionnaires Module can also be used by other DataPipe users for safety audits, accident investigations, environmental surveys, industrial hygiene field studies and literally any other kind of information collection need. Because the information is entered into DataPipe, with its integrated database for all EH&S information, the data entered into a questionnaire can be distributed to other DataPipe modules.

To put, say, a health history from into DataPipe you’d enter each question into the appropriate from in DataPipe (Questions). Order (at this point) doesn’t matter. In fact, if you’ve previously entered questions you want to use again in other questionnaires you can do so without re-entering them. You also choose the “type” of each question; date, time, numeric, single or multiple choice, logical, lookup (validates against a DataPipe table), Employee (validates against Personnel) and free-form text.

You build a questionnaire by assembling the questions in the order you want them asked. If you want to have sections in the questionnaire that are skipped based on the user’s choice (e.g., answering “Do you smoke?” could cause the questionnaire to skip over all questions about smoking if answered “No.”) you can use “logical” questions to “branch” to or around additional questions.

Questionnaires are then completed on-line in DataPipe by selecting the questionnaire and filling in the information on a question by question basis.

There are a couple of variations on how you might have people fill in questionnaires.

If they questionnaire is relatively simple, you could have the questions on a Web page for someone to fill in. Perhaps a week before they’re due in to the clinic for an annual physical you have DataPipe send them an e-mail with a link to a Web page for them to fill in a current physical history form. When completed the information is inserted into DataPipe, where it becomes ready for viewing by the medical staff.

We’ve all probably filled in a physical history form and thought “They’re asking me the same stuff as last year. Why do I have to go over the same questions again and again?”

A variation to the on-line form described above would be to show the employee/patient the answers they provided last time and let them make additions or changes to the data, saving the results as a new set of questionnaire answers (this way the history of their answers is preserved).

There is also an optional component for the Questionnaires Module that lets questionnaires developed in DataPipe be downloaded to a PDA (specifically, a Windows Pocked PC-type PDA), where they may be filled in as needed. A field person could have various questionnaires pre-loaded onto his or her PDA, and select the one needed for an inspection, audit, sample collection job or whatever else is encountered. Each “master” questionnaire loaded onto the PDA can be copied and filled in as many times as needed (well, up to the memory limits in the PDA). When done, the PDA is docked with a computer and the results uploaded into DataPipe. At that point the information is in the DataPipe database just as if someone had filled in the questionnaire directly in your DataPipe system.

Typically nurses and doctors who are using occupational health software will want to administer and track the data for physical exams, medical exams and medical history for patients.  These are tasks that are easily handled using the DataPipe Questionnaires module.

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