Online medical record system keeps up with migrant workers

March 17, 2006

When migrant and seasonal workers move around seeking employment, they take with them a few items, but usually no medical records. An innovative Web-based program provides these records online for physicians and patients to access anywhere, anytime.

When migrant and seasonal workers move around seeking employment, they take with them a few items, but usually no medical records. An innovative Web-based program provides these records online for physicians and patients to access anywhere, anytime.

Considerable numbers of migrant workers suffer from mild, chronic, or potentially life-threatening conditions. Migration also exposes their children to physical and mental harm from extreme poverty and changes in schools. Getting prescriptions or immunization records for school enrollment in a new location creates an unnecessary burden for parents, healthcare administrators, and taxpayers.

The Migrants Visitor Information Access program, or MiVia - My Way in English - will provide the medical history of some California farmworkers wherever they travel, according to a story published March 8 by the Associated Press.

The project started as a partnership between a Sonoma County-based technology company and a farmworker advocacy group to ease healthcare access for seasonal workers. A pilot project conducted in the Sonoma Valley between 2002 and 2004 confirmed the feasibility of the program among more than 1500 registered users.

Patients who enroll in the program get a laminated identification card with their picture, address, and emergency contact information. Patients, authorized advocates, and healthcare providers can access a Web database and enter or retrieve relevant medical data. MiVia's Web site contains a bilingual medical reference guide, medication schedules, and travel resources. Records are password-protected and HIPAA-compliant.

To date, only a fraction of California farmworkers have registered. Program developers expect to expand enrollment throughout the state's agricultural areas, as well as from interested groups from Oregon to Florida.

Independent and government surveys estimate there are about four million agricultural workers and their immediate dependents in the U.S. Almost half of them are either legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens, and 42% of them migrate within and outside U.S. borders seeking farm-related jobs or positions in other industries, according to the 2001-2002 Department of Labor National Agricultural Workers Survey.

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