Undergraduate Helps Develop Regional Patient Locator Service

Close-up of stethoscope and paper on background of doctor and patient hands

By Caroline Yount

What if there is a mass emergency and you are trying to find your family members in a hospital? Or a loved one is traveling and you believe she may have needed urgent medical care?

A Rutgers University-Camden senior is part of a team developing a patient locator service for the greater Philadelphia area that could help families connect with their loved ones during times of chaos or dislocation.

HealthShare Exchange, the greater Philadelphia region’s health information exchange, established the Urgent Patient Activity Liaison (uPAL) last year and first placed it on standby in September for the Philadelphia visit of Pope Francis. HealthShare Exchange links the electronic medical record systems of different hospital health systems, medical centers and clinics. In anticipation of the pope’s visit, HealthShare Exchange member hospitals opted to set up uPAL


Nam Dy

Since then, the system has been geared up at times of major activity in Philadelphia, including the Fourth of July weekend, and will be on-call during the upcoming Democratic National Convention. So far, uPAL has not been activated, “but the system is ready to go at any time in case of an emergency or need,” says Nam Dy, a management and finance major in the Rutgers School of Business-Camden, and intern with HealthShare Exchange.

Camden resident Dy has been working behind the scenes to help improve the technology involved with uPAL since his internship began in the spring. HealthShare Exchange extended his internship for the summer.

For Dy, the experience has been “so much more than just a summer job.” From working on the logistics of logging cases from a customer relationship-management perspective to dealing with vendors to get the best prices for the services the system requires, Dy has been involved in different aspects of the project and an important member of the team.

Dy credits the skills from his business school courses as giving him the tools he has needed to work on this important project. For uPAL, the HealthShare Exchange uses admission-discharge-transfer data feeds from member hospitals as a database of locations for patients seeking emergency or inpatient care at regional hospitals. The uPAL call center, staffed by HealthShare Exchange, is available to participating medical centers fielding calls from worried family members about possibly injured or missing relatives. HealthShare Exchange staff members can search the admission-discharge-transfer data from the approximately 30 hospitals sharing this information to see if a particular individual had been seen for medical care.

His helping and problem-solving work is not limited to off-campus endeavors. At Rutgers University-Camden, he is involved with TRiO Student Support Services, a program designed to provide enhanced academic and other support services to undergraduates who are low-income, first-generation college attendees and students with disabilities. The goal of the program is to help the students involved succeed and graduate in a timely manner, well-equipped for future opportunities.

Dy has been an active TRiO student since he began his Rutgers education in the fall of 2013. He sees the program as a critical part of his success as a college student and has been mentoring other students involved since its peer-mentoring program began in 2014. He now coordinates the student-led mentoring program.

In working with students and helping them acclimate to campus, Dy says the student mentors show them resources that they may not know about, ranging from career services to financial aid resources. Dy is proud of his own and fellow peer mentors’ efforts in helping new students find their way on campus. While the support students get from the staff and faculty on campus is critical, Dy says the peer mentors have “a different connection with the students because we have gone through what they are experiencing.”

“Between playing an important role in an organization that is improving healthcare region-wide and, at the same time, helping my fellow students make the best of their opportunities, I am excited and gratified,” Dy says. “I look to put the skills I’ve learned to best advantage after graduation.”

Posted in: Student Achievement

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