AUBURN – The state of Alabama’s KidCheck program, which administers health screenings to children in rural and medically underserved communities, is expanding statewide with help from technology developed at Auburn University. The new wireless system that incorporates handheld devices used by nursing students to instantly analyze data for patient risk assessment was developed last year as part of an Auburn engineering student design project.
Under the guidance of Richard Chapman, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, Auburn seniors Ben Coulston, Zachary McKinnon, Stephen Duraski, John Brooks and Logan Cannon used a $23,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation to automate data gathering during KidCheck assessments.
By partnering with Auburn nursing students who perform the screenings, the five engineering students, who have since graduated, built a system that provides secure and confidential patient information and eliminates time-consuming paperwork.
“In the past, KidCheck used a manual screening process, leaving school nurses with the daunting task of going through a stack of paperwork, reaching out to parents and sending follow-up paperwork to healthcare providers,” said Jeff Haddox, CEO of Sight Savers America, the Birmingham-based nonprofit organization that administers KidCheck. “This often took months, which slowed down the coordination of follow-up care for the children.”
Through a second grant from the Verizon Foundation, Chapman and his team of wireless engineering researchers have received an additional $18,000 for continued research and software production for KidCheck. The funding is part of a $100,000 grant to Sight Savers America to further develop and implement the program and new wireless system across the state.
“When this project began, we identified shortcomings in the previous system that we thought could be more user friendly during screenings and would let us gather data more efficiently,” Chapman said. “As KidCheck software is being put to use, we see how we can expand and continue our research. I like getting students involved in the project and allowing them to work with the people who will be using the software they develop.”
KidCheck reports can be instantly generated to notify parents of their children’s screening results and follow-up care, including referrals. The software also makes important health data accessible to public health professionals, as well as state policy-makers, while maintaining strict patient privacy. It will move the KidCheck screening process to a completely paperless technology, utilizing a wireless swipe card technology through laptops and scanners.
“I’m proud of Auburn University’s involvement in this effort, and I’m especially proud that more children in Alabama will benefit from free health screenings now that the program is being expanded,” Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard said. “Because it shouldn’t matter where you live – all children in Alabama should have the opportunity to lead a healthy, productive life. Verizon is to be applauded for identifying a need and finding a way to use technology, their most valuable resource, to fill that need and truly make a difference in people’s lives.”
KidCheck has been implemented in 43 Alabama school systems in conjunction with more than 20 Alabama nursing programs. Screenings take place in school gyms with eight to10 stations that record height, weight, body mass index, temperature, blood pressure and heart and respiratory rates along with vision and dental screenings and eye, ears, nose and throat exams. Sight Savers provides follow-up care for children that need additional vision assistance.
To hear Verizon’s Southeast Region President Michelle Robinson speak about this project, go to www.eng.auburn.edu/youtube. Learn more about wireless engineering research at Auburn at http://www.eng.auburn.edu/programs/wireless. For more on Sight Savers America and KidCheck, go to http://sightsaversamericakidcheck.org.
(Contributed by Sally Credille.)