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Blog // Connect Michigan

Printer Distribution Provides Learning Experience Part 2

By Wil Payton

Community organizations provide insight on how technology enhances quality of life

The Connect Michigan team has had the distinct privilege of distributing 381 printers to communities and non-profit organizations in the state to date. More importantly, this program has facilitated a greater understanding of how communities are using technology to enhance the quality of life of their residents.

In a recent blog post we highlighted 2 stories, from printer program recipients, on how technology has impacted the level and effectiveness of services they provide. Below are two more:

Janet Zahn, St. Catherine’s Health Center, Grand Rapids, MI – As a free medical clinic, successful delivery of our services relies heavily on staying connected to the larger community of resources. Medical providers and other clinical staff are on-line nearly continuously as they interact with area hospitals, pharmacies, labs, and other health-related agencies or businesses.

Implementing and using Electronic Medical Records (EMR) requires huge amounts of data to be flowing to and from offices, hospitals, and pharmacies. As we inch closer to the day we will join the larger institutions in use of EMR technology, we are acutely aware of the need for a robust connection to the Internet.

Research for grant opportunities and supporting evidence of need, community standards, and demographics are all found mostly online, so again, the strength of connectivity is important to efficient and effective work to support the financial needs of our clinic.

In summary, current and growing needs for technology and strong Internet connection are extremely important for the success of our work in delivering healthcare services to the un- and under-insured residents of our community.

Brenda Ward, Feeding American West Michigan, Grand Rapids, MI - Before the dawn of the Internet era, linking surplus food to people in need required a massive time investment just to determine where the food would go. On the national level, Feeding America (then America’s Second Harvest) placed phone call after phone call to fairly allocate truckloads of food from around the country to all of its 200 member food banks.

Those food banks – including Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, which serves roughly 1,300 pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, etc. in the western third of the Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula – would write, Xerox, and mail weekly food lists to their agencies. The agencies in turn would fax or call back to the food banks to tell them what products they wanted, which had to be entered into the computer before orders could be picked. With widespread access to broadband Internet, all of that changed.

The national network now operates an online bidding system where regional food banks use fairly allocated points to select the truckloads of product that they know they can distribute. Most, if not all, of the regional food banks host online ordering systems that run synchronously with their own inventory and thus are always up-to-date. Agencies can log on at any time of day or night to select whatever quantity and type of product that they want. All the orders they place show up their food bank’s inventory system and can be processed for picking with the simple click of a button.

Be sure to follow Connect Michigan on Facebook and Twitter for more articles on how technology impacts your life!

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