Thursday, May 7, 2015

Dashing Data

My last and final leg of my semester abroad in Costa Rica ended with a bang. We were instructed to start our data collection process for out independent projects in the Las Cruces Biological Station in Coto Brus. Although this period was stressful, I am overjoyed with the quality of results my group was able to receive. Here is some background on our project: my group studied the influx of frequent users that were using the primary health care clinics, or the EBAIS clinics. These patients attended the primary care clinics an inappropriate amount of times and in Coto Brus alone over the past five years, were costing the social security system of Costa Rica about $500,000. This research was particularly interesting to me because Costa Rica has universal access to health care. Frequent users are commonly found infiltrating other countries with similar health care systems. This problem is extremely relevant in United States, where there has been movement towards a more public health care system.

Our data collection involved reviewing and analyzing the demographics of about 6000 patients that attended all 16 primary care clinics in the Coto Brus canton. I learned so much about Excel and data collection than I ever thought I would. Our group would be up late just analyzing data and organizing it with pivot tables and statistical analysis. I started to develop an interest in computer science! But, I had the most fun when we visited four clinics to collect data from patients for their chronic disease history. It was interesting to see how most patient records were not digitized. We also got to meet ATAPs, or community health care workers. ATAPs are responsible for making primary care home visits. I was so amazed because the ATAPs knew every single one of their patients by name, and where they lived! When we asked for patient records, they just pulled the files out like it was nothing. We even traveled to the clinics with one of our professors, Dr. Nicolas Lopez. He gave us insight into the Costa Rican health care system as a practicing physician. We had a great time just bonding and learning about his love for pizza!

The primary care system, although impressive, needs modernization to reduce this frequent user dilemma. I hope that our research can be made available to the social security system of Costa Rica and health care workers so that cost effective interventions can be institutionalized. I look forward to sharing my research to my professor and friends and Smith.

Meghna Purkayastha

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