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Headache Specialists Use REDCap to Streamline Patient Care

Kelly Bender, Health Services Manager at the Headache Clinic, demonstrates the clinic's REDCap new patient questionnaire.

Headache Specialists Use REDCap to Streamline Patient Care

Dr. Natalia Murinova, director of the UW Medicine Headache Clinic and a University of Washington clinical assistant professor of neurology, noticed that on the first visit, patients spent much time going over their history during the first visit. This took time away from communication with the patient about their needs and preferences.


Drs. Natalia Murinova and Melissa Schorn

Murinova and her colleague Dr. Melissa Schorn, a nurse practitioner at the Headache Clinic, wanted a way to capture this information beforehand, so they could spend less time on medical history and more time on solutions.

Last summer, they worked with ITHS REDCap consultant Bas de Veer to develop a questionnaire using REDCap, a free data capture and management tool. Now, new patients are directed to complete the online questionnaire before their first appointment.

With 11 different sections, the questionnaire covers everything from medical and family histories to headache triggers and treatments to diet and stress levels. If it seems exhaustive, that is by design.  The detailed questions help the patient express their preferences and help the providers anticipate special concerns. The detailed picture helps Drs. Murinova and Schorn provide more personalized care.

The comprehensive questionnaire has the added benefit of getting patients more involved in their own health care, Schorn said. It requires patients to take time to think about their health history, medications, and what they want to get out of the appointment.

While the questionnaire is a great starting point, “It does not replace human interaction,” Murinova cautioned. It can be challenging to get patients’ medication histories. Sometimes they forget the details. Sometimes they get it wrong. Follow-up conversations at the appointment help clarify answers.

Murinova and Schorn aim to create a simplified version of their survey that could be used by primary care providers. Most patients consult their primary care provider first when seeking help for migraines or other headaches. However, primary care providers receive little formal education regarding headache medicine. If providers knew the right questions to ask, it could help them make better diagnoses, offer the best treatments, and know when to refer patients to specialists, Murinova explained.

The Headache Clinic has been using the questionnaire since October. After they receive the questionnaire results, the team moves the data from REDCap to patients’ electronic medical records. REDCap has been a great application because it is free to use and does not require a dedicated IT team, Schorn said.

Murinova and Schorn plan to continue building and improving their questionnaire. Embedding videos into the survey to supplement instructions is one of the REDCap features they hope to utilize soon. “We are incredibly excited about using REDCap and its future potential,” Murinova said. “We also think it’s fantastic to have ITHS supporting us.”