Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 55 seconds

team heartCeeya Bolman, a cardiac nurse from North Carolina, traveled to Rwanda for the first time in 2005 at the request of a friend who asked her to tour a recently established hospital.

The facility had no running water or electricity. One ward was crowded with men and boys suffering from rheumatic heart disease. After the genocide, the country had no more than a handful of cardiac surgeons for its more than 12 million citizens, so many patients were not receiving treatment.

That trip led Bolman and her husband to found Team Heart, which performs cardiac surgeries, delivers medical equipment and shares medical knowledge in the country.

Each year, volunteers from Team Heart perform 16 cardiac surgeries in Rwanda. Each surgery requires herculean organization and a stunning 2,000 individual pieces of equipment. If any one piece is missing, Bolman said, the surgeries can’t happen. And if the surgeries can’t happen, it means Team Heart will have spent $180,000 worth of donations in vain and flown three cardiac surgeons, two anesthesiologists, two cardiologists and multiple medical residents to Africa for nothing.

With time and lives at stake, it is critical that each piece of equipment be meticulously accounted for. That critical need is where a custom app built on the FileMaker Platform enters.

Before Team Heart had the custom app to rely on, volunteers used spreadsheets to track surgical supplies. The system was a challenge to use and vulnerable to errors. So, a volunteer who was an attorney by day began setting up a custom app using the FileMaker Platform. The initial goal was to help Team Heart with inventory and billing. Then, in 2015, the organization hired an independent developer, who specialized in creating custom apps on the FileMaker Platform, to polish the app and make it run better. The app helped minimize the kinds of costly errors that Team Heart didn’t have time for.

For instance, prior to using the custom app, Bolman once arrived in Rwanda for a surgical mission, only to find a case of pacemakers missing from a storage facility. The devices had never arrived, and her clunky system hadn’t allowed her to see that they weren’t there. Bolman had to phone a nurse in Boston and ask her to get on a plane and fly the needed case over. In the meantime, lifesaving surgeries were placed on hold.

“It’s very stressful to prepare for volunteer trips,” said Bolman. “But our custom app gives me peace of mind.”

Volunteers use the app on Team Heart iPad devices to identify supplies as they arrive in-country, delete supplies from inventory when they’re used in surgeries and manage inventory orders for the next trip. The app also tracks serial numbers and expiration dates, ensuring all medical equipment meets necessary safety standards. Each piece of equipment fits into the larger catalogue of supplies with its own dedicated page.

Bolman has a vision for building a custom app to manage patient wellness after surgery. The app could be accessed seamlessly on any iPhone device and would be given to patients after they undergo surgery. The app would send checkup reminders and securely gather post-op recovery data. Patients could easily provide real-time reports about where or if they got medication, how they were feeling and whether they’d been able to return to normal life after surgery. This is the kind of life-transforming progress that’s possible when technology is properly applied.


Ann Monroe, vice president, worldwide marketing and customer success,

FileMaker, Inc.

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