FileMaker Pro at the Alabama Eye Bank

Alabama Eye Bank

Alabama Eye Bank

I’ve been an advocate of FileMaker Pro as a rapid-application software development system. FileMaker allows a developer or savvy end-user to get database applications up and running in a relatively short amount of time. Much of my development involves automating workflows based on paper or Excel spreadsheets. These tend to be smaller systems with a limited amount of data. So I’m intrigued to find a FileMaker system that tackles a complex and critical workflow.  Alabama Eye Bank  has an application which tracks the progress of donated corneas. The program was described on FileMaker’s customer stories page. That description goes back some years, and I was interested to hear about the current state of the application. Tom Cattell, Vice President for Information Systems provided some additional information. As of this writing, FileMaker is now at version 13. Solutions written in FileMaker Pro 12 and 13 can be deployed on Windows, Macintoshes, or iPads and iPhones.

1. Which version are you running of FileMaker 12 or 13?
While FileMaker 13 is the most current version of FileMaker, we currently use FileMaker 12, only because our audit log (FMDataGuard) that tracks changes to records and fields is 32 bit and doesn’t work with FM13. I use FM13 for development and for the iPad/iPhone apps. I am working right now on updating to a new audit log so we can get to FM13 ASAP.

2. Are you hosting with FileMaker server?
We host FileMaker server on a Windows 2008 virtualized server.

3. Mac or Windows?
All our clients are Mac and all our servers are virtualized Windows servers and are all on our local network.

4. What was the reaction of IT to a FileMaker application?
We have used FileMaker since 1998 and used Macs even longer, so it wasn’t a big leap to move to FileMaker Go and start using iPads and iPhones.

5. Did you develop in-house or use an outside developer?
I did 90% of the development of our current solution in-house. We had a smaller database created in FileMaker 6 when I got to the eye bank in 2007. My first job was to upgrade us to FM9 which took 3 months. After that, we have more then doubled the databases and use them in nearly all areas of our business. Our supply module which was created about a year ago was mostly developed with local consultants, one of whom created the interface for our current databases.

6. What is a typical workflow?
The whole process begins when a hospital calls in a death to our Donor Service Center (DSC). The DSC enters the data in the Referrals tab of our database. If we get consent by a next of kin and they pass our medical social questions, we flag the referral as a donor and pass it to a Recovery Coordinator. They take an iPad, download the donor data into it and head to the hospital. At the hospital they enter several pages of chart information and perform the procedure. Upon return they sync the data from the iPad to our FileMaker server and then label the vials that hold corneas (the clear part of the eye) with labels that print as soon as the data is uploaded.

From there, our technical staff continues the process of making sure the corneas are safe and good quality for transplant. We then prepare them for surgeries that are entered on our FileMaker hosted webpage by surgery schedulers throughout Alabama, the nation and the world. We send out electronic invoices through FileMaker and import that data to QuickBooks for our accounting.

Honestly this is a complicated process. We also track all account info, contact info, hospital development and employee benefits with FileMaker databases. FileMaker gives us one place to interact and organize our workflow and provides redundancy and checks and balances throughout the whole process.

7. Does it interface with another electronic medical record system, like EPIC?
No, not yet. We are currently looking at how to handle EMR, but at this point there isn ’t much of a need.

8. Just curious, why can a cornea that was rejected as suitable for transplant by the U.S. be sent abroad?
The US has a surplus of cornea tissue that results in higher selectivity. Abroad there is still a great need for corneal tissue and therefore some countries tend to be less selective. Now glaucoma surgeons in the US use these lower quality corneas for shunt coverage. They look much better then the alternatives that were being used. It is honestly amazing all the ways corneas are being used now.

Many thanks, Tom!

So, the FileMaker database has evolved to manage all of the referrals, donors, tissues, accounts, contacts, distribution and online surgery scheduling. 

But wait, there’s more!

FileMaker is also used in the AEB’s human resources area. It handles employee benefits, including time off, vacation and sick leave. And, through FileMaker, Cattell has created multiple reports to assist management to better keep a pulse on the eye bank’s daily operations. And, on the accounting end, the Eye Bank application interfaces with QuickBooks to create invoices.  

Looking at the following two screenshots, you wouldn’t immediately see that these are FileMaker screens. But the crisp design and spacious layout is typical of what can be developed in short order using native FileMaker tools.  What’s more, these screens are rendered almost identically on Macs and Windows when using the desktop versions of FileMaker Pro, or as web pages using FileMaker Web Direct. Note that patient data shown on both screens is fictitious.


Alabama Eye Bank – Individual Referral Information


Alabama Eye Bank – Referral Listing

The Alabama Eye Bank Information System will continue to evolve. Tom Cantell posted some additional photos on Flickr that include a screen shots from related FileMaker applications that run on the iPhone and iPad, as well as some additional detail about the FileMaker applications.

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Posted in Electronic Health Record, FileMaker, Finance, Healthcare Reform, Technology

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