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A Resource List Database Program for Microsoft® Access

I. Introduction

II. List Navigation

III. Drill Down

IV. Contact Notes

V. Keyboard-Only (Mouseless) Operation

VI. Database Schema

Introduction

Many database applications - once in use by the client - require a lot of lookup and edit for existing data, and less work in creating new records. For example, if you run a small, or medium-sized, business then your customer list probably does not change a lot month-to-month. We might describe your customer list as relatively stable. Much of the use of such a database depends on locating records, not on entering a lot of new records.

Even if your application is an even mix of lookup, edit, and new record entry, much of the usefulness and efficiency of the program comes down to navigation issues: how fast can you find a specific record, and how much information do have to provide the program to conduct the search.

The how fast is often a function of how much information you have before you start searching the database. Do you know the exact spelling of the last name? Can you remember whether the listing is  The University of ..., or  State University? Is a hospital listed as Dallas Hospital, or Hospital of Dallas? Do you search a company name field, or do you search the individual's name field?

Emergency Department Resource List

In the E/R of a hospital, staff often needs to lookup resource information such as the beeper number for a staff physician, home telephone number of an E/R employee, a community resource such as counseling service, and or the address of  another hospital in the area. The E/R doc, or other staff, needs a database system that is fast,  and presents a user interface with flexible ways to search the data.

Additionally, a resource may be contacted and a note made concerning the contact such as a summary of the conversation. Having the ability to make notes while using the contact program is also important.

For one such client, I developed an Access-based Resource List Manager. The application allows users to search by name, assigned code, or specialty quickly with, or without, using the mouse. Notes (log entries) can be added and are automatically date/time stamped so for later retrieval/review in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest). 

Recent log entries (within past 24 hours) are clearly flagged on the contact list to assist the user in locating recent contacts.

The program should have clear, useful screens, and the navigation (finding a specific record) should be easy and fast. In a busy E/R, no one has time to look for software instruction manual, nor do they have time to navigate through layers and layers of a computer menu-system.

Additionally, an E/R (and other environments such as as a communications center, help desk, incident reporting operation) runs on a short cycle. The typical time a patient is in the E/R, for example, is in the range of one to four hours. When contact notes (log entries) are made, the database provides a visual indication of recent contacts coded into three categories: Notes entered/modified within last four hours, last eight hours, or last 24 hours.

Resource List Database - Primary List

Figure 1. Resource List Database - Primary List

As shown in Figure 1, the program uses a single field for names: either a person's name or the name of a resource such as the county health department. Rather than having to decide every time, "Should I begin the search on Last Name or Company Name?", the user need only search the one field.

Once a resource has been found, the program uses a drill-down technique to display the complete data record to include contact phone numbers. The program supports entering contact notes into a log file from either the list form (Primary List) or from the detail form (Primary Detail).

The list can be filtered to show only recent contacts. See Section IV, Contact Notes for additional information about this program feature.

Also, as a convenience, the program provides a calendar feature.

Calendar Display with navigationClick to enlarge. Opens in new window.

Calendar Display with navigation