Medical Record Keeping in a Public Aquarium: Adapting a Commercially Available Software Application to a Custom Situation
Medical record keeping in public aquariums using computer software has traditionally been performed using "one-off" customized solutions that only partially address the complex requirements and unique needs of the animal collection and the animal care staff. Customized software solutions can be expensive, time consuming to plan and execute, and are often not easy to expand or add functionality. These systems can be quickly balkanized if the connection with the original programmer is not maintained.
In 2000, the animal care staff at the Newport Aquarium, Newport, KY, addressed the problem that faces all public aquariums; how to quickly and economically develop and implement a medical records software package that would meet the needs of the institutions collection, the AZA, and ultimately the USDA. The solution was developed by defining the required functionality and capabilities, assessing available packages on cost, ease of use, flexibility, technical support and security. Once a commercially available veterinary medical records software package was chosen implementation began. After the labor-intensive task of entering all of the animal's genus, species and location, the record system was ready to use for all medical records, animal tracking, accessions, quarantine, disease tracking, mortalities and de-accessions.
The usefulness of any medical records system is based in the staff's willingness to use it, and its integration with the inevitable paper records that exist. By defining the institutions veterinary medical records needs, understanding the limits of software from the perspective of a tool, and undergoing a thorough evaluation of existing packages, including costs, functionality, adaptability, technical support, and expandability, an institution can effectively meet their record keeping needs for reasonable cost. ClienTrax is one such solution.