“I’m excited about this. This has great promise.”

When Wisconsin State Senator Bob Wirch came to campus Friday, April 27, saving taxpayer money was on his mind. After viewing research done by University of Wisconsin-Parkside students Chris McMahon and Trevor Severson on potential changes to healthcare delivery at state correctional institutions that could save millions of dollars, Sen. Wirch said he was impressed by the students’ work and excited about its potential.

“I like what you’ve done so far. We can save money and do the job better, it’s a no-brainer” to use the students research to improve the system, Wirch said.

McMahon, who is employed at the Robert E. Ellsworth Correctional Center in Union Grove, spoke about the current healthcare system employed at the state’s 40 prisons and how a move from paper-based record keeping to a computerized system could save money and deliver better healthcare service.

McMahon said the current system uses a form with carbon paper which costs the state approximately $30,000 a year to print. Scheduling of doctor’s appointments is done on a paper form which doesn’t readily allow for changes in the schedule. This slows the delivery of care which can turn treatable illness into life threatening–and potentially lawsuit producing–medical emergencies.

Severson and McMahon acknowledged that there would be upfront costs to getting a computerized system in place. Hardware and software would have to be purchased and training in that software would have to be performed. However, they said, the saving through reduced printing costs, reduced staffing needs, and fewer lawsuits would start almost immediately.

The UW-Parkside students suggested the new system be tested in Wisconsin’s three women’s correction facilities as a pilot project. If successful there, the system could be used in the state’s other three dozen plus prisons.

McMahon and Severson told Wirch the Department of Corrections (DOC) has not seen their presentation as yet but that the department does have a copy of the poster the students prepared for the UW System’s Posters in the Rotunda research showcase held in Madison in March. Wirch received a copy of the poster Friday and suggested a meeting with DOC was the next logical step which he said his office would help facilitate.

Earlier on Friday, Severson and McMahon presented their findings during the UW System Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity held at the UW-Parkside campus.