Among experts in correctional health, the test of any system is how well it can collect and manage patients’ data, says the Arizona Republic. Faced with a constantly changing, high-risk population, jail staff must quickly diagnose, track, and treat a variety of medical conditions. Knowing which inmate has what condition, the risks involved, treatment regimens and where that inmate is at any given time is a huge challenge.
Phoenix’ Maricopa County Correctional Health Services department has failed for years on that basic standard of collecting and managing medical data. The solution is a central, electronic medical-records system to replace the county’s scattered paper files and limited computer capacity. The county’s Board of Supervisors has not acted on repeated recommendations to install such a system, even when faced with hundreds of lawsuits and the loss of accreditation. An investigation by the newspaper found a system with chronic problems and top county officials who seem unwilling to fix them. In the second of a series, the Republic explored the value of an electronic records system and what the old system costs taxpayers.