Simulation programs, large and small, struggle with effectively tracking their activities, learners, faculty time, equipment and manikin use. In addition, return on investment (ROI) reports are tedious to build and often inaccurately reflect the simulation program’s successes while failing to capture the breadth of activities. Often data is inadequately tracked on multiple spreadsheets, on paper (such as sign-in and learner evaluations) or through survey systems. This leads to data fragmentation, requiring time to compile into meaningful reports. After assessing what our program needed to track for medical education, learner reports, system usage, administrative analysis and fiscal reports, we found that simulation-specific, higher-cost products were not the best option. We developed a commercial relational database to develop a data tracking system that allows us to report on multiple activities, analyze our learner population, create ROI reports for administrative reviews and capture supportive data for end of fiscal year budgetary considerations. This low cost alternative data collection system is both generalizable and reproducible for any size program with the ability to be scaled based on program changes.
Recognizing the need to build accurate reports on our simulation program’s activities, we sought out a low cost, locally managed commercial solution to data tracking and reporting. As an operationalized program within a large academic hospital, we are required to provide ROI reports to administrative committees and to justify budgetary requests yearly. Like many programs, faculty and staff office time was limited. Data collection needed to be centralized, accessible and able to create reports that could be easily manipulated and produced. With a fiduciary responsibility to stay within the constraints of our budget, the solution we sought had to be a low cost alternative to a marketed simulation-specific product yet have the ability to capture data relevant to the program. After doing a needs analysis on the types of reports we required and the data we wanted to track, we used a relational database to build a data collection tool that can be easily and remotely updated to meet our program’s growth and future project needs. This database is managed internally but it can be remotely accessed from a number of device types and is available to all faculty and staff who would need to create reports or submit data, while retaining data security.
It is possible to develop an effective and intuitive data collection tool to track learners, faculty time, simulator and equipment usage, learner evaluations and projects of the simulation program with a commercial relational database. We had additional barriers to consider such as the majority of our simulation projects occurring in the in-situ setting requiring the need for remote tracking. We required the ability to use hand held devices, such as tablets or smart phones, as scanners, allowing for ease of data entry for faculty and learners as well as for sessions and in clinical areas, increasing the efficiency of data tracking. Reports were easily manipulated to be individualized for its desired intent. While a new process, we anticipate a reduction in office time for ROI reports and an increased efficiency in providing these reports to administrative groups and end of fiscal year budgetary meetings. We suggest that relational database programs are a low cost, effective alternative to large-scale commercial event planners and data collection systems that can be easily developed and used by any sized simulation program.
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