Jennifer Smith

May 27, 2011

Wayne State University School of Medicine students and physicians who volunteer to treat the uninsured at the Cass Clinic -- and their patients -- no longer have to keep medical records on index cards thanks to one of those students.

Jennifer Smith, 25, who just completed her second year of medical school, secured a number of grants to fund a new electronic medical record system for the clinic. Smith, of Ann Arbor, was recently invited to discuss that successful project in Lansing by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Blue Cross Blue Shield held its first Healthy Safety Net: A Blues Symposium on May 5. The invitation-only symposium featured representatives from free clinics and federally qualified health centers to discuss details about the federal Health Care Reform Act, its impact to date and how it may affect clinics in the future. Smith was invited to represent Cass Clinic and to discuss the progress of its new electronic medical records system.

“I discussed our new system and the impact it could have on the quality of care for our patients with various representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield and other clinics,” Smith said. “It seemed like people were very interested in my project and agreed that an organized EMR system will be a good transition from the paper index cards that have been used for the past 25 years.”

Smith, the Cass Clinic’s financial coordinator, applied for and received grants from the Michigan Department of Community Health ($5,000), Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan ($15,000), the Wayne State University Alumni Association ($1,500) and the state of Michigan ($4,000).

The funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield was used to purchase 11 MacbookPro computers, one iMac mainframe, 12 protection plans and software that included MacPractice EMR software. Smith said the grant provided enough funding to run the clinic’s EMR operations, including updates and training, for at least the next two years.

The other grants funded a new secure lock for the office, a large storage cabinet to secure the computers, blood pressure cuffs, ophthalmoscope heads and other equipment for the clinic.

“The money that we receive through grants is usually used for the basic clinic operations such as medication, medical supplies, office supplies, hygiene products, etcetera, to help run the clinic, but this year, because we received the grant through Blue Cross Blue Shield, we were able to purchase all the hardware, software, maintenance fees and electronic devices needed to create electronic medical records at our free clinic,” Smith said.

Her more than 140 hours of volunteering at the clinic, and medical relief trips to Nicaragua, Belize and Ecuador as a member of the World Health Student Organization, have made Smith “very passionate about helping the underserved.”

“For the past 25 years, Cass Clinic has been using paper index cards stapled together to keep track of the patients’ medical records. While this worked OK for the clinic, it was very difficult to find past medical histories, medication lists, changes in the medical records, and important information in the health record,” said Smith, who remains undecided about which field of medicine she plans to practice. “I am hoping that our new EMR system will improve clinic operations, enhance the quality of care for our patients and help move our clinic forward in the right direction. Perhaps this will also allow us to expand and provide more care for women and children, and reach out to other individuals around Detroit who also do not have access to health care.”

150 years in the heart of Detroit