Digital Record Project Captures Life-Saving Health Data for Doctors in Panama

July 21, 2022

Lush mangrove tree forests, pristine white-sand beaches, and the occasional sloth hanging from a tree bough—these are sites of the Archipelago of Bocas del Toro. On the Northwest coast of Panama lies Bocas Del Toro, a province made of scattered islands teeming with exotic wildlife. Yet, life in Bocas for indigenous populations can be a cruel reality rather than a Caribbean paradise. Malnutrition impedes child growth, fungal infections like Tinea are widely prevalent, and parasitic worms remain a constant enemy. Despite the high burden of disease and health issues, access to physicians is limited in these remote villages. It can take months, even years before a patient can see a doctor. Floating Doctors (FD), a medical organization, answers the call for help by travelling on cayucos (canoes) from island to island to deliver life-saving healthcare to communities in Bocas.

The Village of Valle Escondido (James Lyons)

Even with a professional team like FD, healthcare delivery and documentation in Bocas Del Toro is a challenge. The FD medical team, consisting of international and local physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and medical students, lugs several heavy boxes of paper patient charts on canoes to and from communities. Traveling by boat—the only method of transportation in Bocas—can take hours and leave FD’s paper record charts at risk of being lost and damaged by sea or rain storms. After returning to base, the medical team transfers data from paper charts to spreadsheets and manually updates their pharmacy inventory, identifying which medications and resources need to be replenished. During the process, illegible handwriting and poor record-keeping can lead to inaccurate records, misdiagnosis, or missed prescriptions. 

This is where Frontida Records steps in. The Frontida team alleviated Floating Doctor’s documentation and organizational burdens by developing a customized electronic health record with a digital pharmacy inventory. Over the course of many months, the Frontida team met weekly with the FD team online and designed the application. By September 2021, the application was built and ready to be tested. The following month, nine members of Frontida travelled to Bocas and stayed at the Floating Doctors base on the island of San Cristobal. Here, we met the medical team and Dr. Benjamin LaBrot, the dedicated founder of Floating Doctors. Click here to see an interview with Dr. Labrot.

During our week-long visit, the Frontida team was able to complete the following:

  • Solidify our UX designs and workflows of the electronic health record application
  • Beta-test Frontida’s application at three community clinics: Sharkhole, Valle Escondido, and Cerro Brujo
  • Assess our offline functionality at two remote clinics. Our application was able to successfully show and collect data offline
  • Run four satellite internet connection tests which verified that our application could sync the offline data to the cloud and update all devices in seconds
  • Collect and compare data on how much time was used for the paper and electronic health record systems. When using our system, documentation time was reduced by over 50% and saved the medical team approximately 2.65 hours/day
  • Expand the mission of caring for underserved communities through our story and work

We want to thank all of the donors, mentors, families, and friends who supported us on our journey.  Our journey toward a more efficient and streamlined record-keeping system in places like Bocas would not be possible without the support of you and the rest of the Frontida family.

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