12 April 2007

Real World Access (22)

One of a series of articles about where Microsoft Office Access applications have found a real-world niche.

 Oliver Stohr's Good Health

One of the largest applications I ever build with Access is used by a large staffing contractor, who provides staffing services for the federal US government. As with many projects, this was born out of bare necessity.

Because of sensitive and very important work the contracted employees have to be guaranteed to be up to date on health related aspects like vaccines. The staffing company works in cooperation with a health provider, who supplies employees with health checkups. Before the implementation of the Access based system the company was using Excel spreadsheets to try to keep track of their thousands of employed contractors as well as their health information and requirements. Needless to say this setup did not work at all and relied on a user to actually manually check statuses of each employee on an almost day to day basis.

Leaving the door open for human error one specific critical and almost scandalous problem occurred. This was the turning point for the decision that there is a vital need for the implementation of a system which supports the company and warns users with specific deadlines before they are breached.

So I created a tracking system within Access which stores employees' data and health statuses from many different government sites. The system automatically warns supervisors as well as the health provider if an employee needs a specific health check update (e.g. vaccine refreshers). The warning is send and displayed until the health issue is updated, which is either done manually by data entry or by importing provided spreadsheet data from the health provider. On the other hand the health provider can also be provided with exports from the system in case their files are out of date (the health provider uses an unreliable paper based filing system).

The system implementation had several different important requirements. The data within the application should be somewhat secure (confidential information). Furthermore, the application should scale and adapt to several different users (local supervisors, cooperate supervisors, administrators, data entry…). The application should also run at different locations without the need for purchase of additional resources (software, hardware…). After assessing the complete situation I decided to go with an Access based system which fulfilled the project requirements.

The application has been in circulation for several years now and is currently being used by many different supervisors at different contracting sites. It has proven very successful in scheduling and tracking employees' health issues without any loopholes and satisfies all the company’s needs without any further problems.

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