The Varieties of the Mysterious Case Number

Sounds like the title to a Sherlock Holmes novel doesn’t it?

It has been almost four years since we began investigating the complexities of how wildlife rehabilitators keep and organize their records. Since that time we have seen and adapted many great ideas into Wildlife Rehabilitation MD. However the case number of our patients, which seems like such a simple thing, is in fact a thing that carries great contention. We have been semi-regularly asked how the case numbers are derived in Wildlife Rehabilitation MD and can the pattern be changed. These questions threw us off at first, because, (as we thought to ourselves) what other way would you do it?

When Wildlife Rehabilitation MD was first created, there was hardly any time spent on how the case numbers should be derived. It seemed logical to go with the simplest method possible; assigning each years individuals their own unique case number, starting from 1. At the beginning of the next year, start over again from 1. So in essence the case numbers are 2014-1, 2014-2, … and so on. And on January first of the next year the case numbers will be 2015-1, 2015-2, …

Besides this being a simple pattern there are also technical reasons for it. In the actual database, the case number is set to auto increment. This means that it automatically generates a unique numeric identity (case number) for each new row. This is a very basic and common behavior in a relational database. If we were to skip a case number or even delete a record, the database would generate the next case number incorrectly and leave a hole in the series. This very basic and common behavior of assigning each new record it’s own unique integer is also perfectly suited for the case numbers of the patients the records are being created for.

Just A Few of the Case Number Patterns that We Have Seen

  1. One case number per patient unless the patients are related siblings in which case each sibling gets a letter appended to the case number.
    Ex: 1, 2, 3, 4-a, 4-b, 4-c, 5, 6, …
  2. A case number for each individual bird and a case number for each individual mammal.
    Ex: bird-1, bird-2, mammal-1, mammal- 2, bird-3, …
  3. Similar to the previous variety, one case number for each individual of some lay group such as raptor or songbird and then a case number sequence for everybody else.
    Ex: raptor-1, raptor-2, other-1, other-2, raptor-3, other-3, ….
  4. Not even giving a case number to anybody. Instead, just use the band placed on the animal as the case number.

We had no idea there was such a diversity of ways to use case numbers. Honestly, in some forms how can anybody keep track of what “number” is next? Though there are some good reasons behind these other ways, we feel why not keep it simple. Each animal that comes in gets a number sequentially to when it came in. You will always know how many animals you have what the next animal will be and with WRMD, you can search to easily figure out how many of each species or class came in. As for siblings, we are currently working on a way to link those together.

Our goal is to keep everything as simple as possible. That is why we are sticking with this method of creating the case numbers and leaving the programmatic work to WRMD.

Wildlife Rehabilitation MD’s 2013 Year In Review

2013 was an absolutely extraordinary year for Wildlife Rehabilitation MD! Although we have existed for 4 years, Wildlife Rehabilitation MD has only been available to use for 2 years. It was important for us to spend a significant amount of time researching what information the larger wildlife rehabilitation community collects and how that information is cataloged; and that investment has paid off! In the 2 years of its use in the rehab community, Wildlife Rehabilitation MD has grown from a simple database with good intentions into a fully fledged and versatile living resource. Our ability to adapt to nearly any organizations needs have allowed us to work with facilities all over the United States. The flexibility of the database has also allowed us to connect with organizations in Canada and Belize.

Wildlife Rehabilitation MD’s 2013 Numbers

In 2013 Wildlife Rehabilitation MD admitted just over 32,000 cases from 14 very active organizations. To put that in perspective, in 2012 we admitted 4969 from 2 organizations. In truth we admitted nearly 150,000 records if you include all the imported records from previous years. To date there are 65 organizations registered in Wildlife Rehabilitation MD, many of which signed up in the last 2 months of 2013. As for the actual usage of the web application, we served over 800,000 page views to 2,500 unique visitors! That is extraordinary. The wildlife rehabilitation community is a very niche community and to serve so many of us is an absolute honor.

Top Highlights From 2013

  • Established the parent organization, The Wild Neighbors Database Project, as a nonprofit organization tasked with managing Wildlife Rehabilitation MD.
  • Endorsed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Completed a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign that ultimately generated over $6000.
  • Upgraded to version 2.0, which included significant enhancements and 140% speed increase.
  • Moved to a much more powerful and secure server.
  • Presented Wildlife Rehabilitation MD at three symposiums: CCWR, IWRC and NWRA.
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation MD is now being used in three countries: United States, Canada and Belize.

Total Cases Admitted per Week in 2013

Total Cases Admitted per Week in 2013

Sincere Thank You

This may be becoming old, but we could never stop saying it, Thank You! Our success and growth are because of the contributions of our users. We have been blessed with their great ideas for improvements as well as financial assistance. Nearly each day we receive a message from a user with a great suggestion or question. We are here to try and make hard working, underpaid wildlife rehabilitators lives just a little easier.

The Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative (CWHI)

The Clinical Wildlife Health Initiative (CWHI) is a group of wildlife rehabilitation hospitals across North America, organized to develop a list of agreed upon standardized terminology used to described the Circumstances of Admission, Clinical Signs and Diagnosis of wildlife rehabilitation patients. The CWHI was organized and chaired by The Raptor Center of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Its creation was a collaborative effort of more than a dozen wildlife care and conservation organizations including Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV), the creators of Wild-One.

How the CWHI is Organized

The CWHI is organized primarily into three main groups of terminology:

  1. Circumstances of Admission – Why did the finder bring me this animal?
  2. Clinical Signs – What are the abnormal physical exam findings?
  3. Diagnosis – What caused the abnormal physical exam findings

Within each group there are many subgroups of definition terms, some of which contain a third subgroup of terms. As you traverse the terms down the tree, the terms become more and more specific. The definitions only go at most three levels deep in order to simplify the selection of an appropriate term(s) to use.

The Status of the CWHI

Recently the University of Minnesota Raptor Center has begun hosting a series of conference calls to re-examine the existing terms and enhance the terminology. Organizations from across North American, including Wildlife Rehabilitation MD, are contributing to the cause.

Wildlife Rehabilitation MD and the CWHI Terminology

We absolutely support the CWHI. We feel that regardless of which rehabilitation database one chooses, a standardized terminology shared by all is essential to the wildlife rehabilitation community’s growth. However, we also are realistic and know that rehabbers are short on staff, time, money and other resources. We don’t have the time to think about and choose the most appropriate term(s) for a case from lists within lists. We just want to write down observations and notes in sentences that make sense to us and our co-rehabers. Rehabilitators and veterinary staff that use Wildlife Rehabilitation MD really like the flexibility allowed by Wildlife Rehabilitation MD to describe the circumstances of admission, clinical signs and diagnosis of their patients in commonly used language or medical terminology. This creates a very interesting dilemma, we want standardized terminology, but we also need our record keeping to be quick and easy.

Imagine a scenario during the middle of summer when you’re admitting over 50 animals a day. You have a line of people out the door, each holding a box with a stressed-out suffering patient. This scenario isn’t that uncommon for wildlife rehabilitation centers throughout the country. Those people in line and especially the animals need to be taken care of as quickly as possible. Wildlife Rehabilitation MD was designed by people who have endured summers like this and made it a point to be able to admit our cases quickly and all on one screen. Using common language to describe why the animal(s) were brought to our facility, it is a much easier way to record information.

Part of the Problem

Online behavioral studies have shown repeatedly that while online, people loose interest quickly if the answers they are seeking are not immediate. Choosing from a list of dozens of terms can be time consuming and is akin to taking a survey. It’s human nature to want things to be quick and easy—once a survey taker loses interest they simply abandon the task or fudge the answers simply to get it finished. This would be disastrous and counter productive for standardized terminology’s cause.

Part of the Solution

Wildlife Rehabilitation MD is a database run on a server in the internet. All three of those words mean that any hard or time consuming work can and should be done by a computer. We think that we should let the computers (ie: Wildlife Rehabilitation MD) do the computing and let the rehabbers (ie: us) do the rehabbing. We simply use the fields in Wildlife Rehabilitation MD per normal to admit our patients, describe their injuries and record thier treatments and Wildlife Rehabilitation MD will (behind the scenes) analyze our records for keywords/phrases and determine which CWHI terms best fit. Think this sounds crazy? Try it on Google. They perform this same logic every second of the day, calculating webpage probability based in keyword search. It may seem like magic but in actuality it is simply people typing their words and letting computers do their jobs.

All that said, we will also soon be including a list of the CWHI terms in Wildlife Rehabilitation MD so that if in fact you do want to choose the most appropriate term(s) you can.

The Next Steps for the CWHI and WRMD

As the University of Minnesota Raptor Center host more conference calls, terms are revised and important decisions are made, we’ll make sure to keep you posted on the progress. In time, all this hard work being conducted by rehabilitation hospitals across North America, as well as all the major wildlife rehabilitation databases, will have a tremendously positive impact on our community and the patients we serve. This is a very exciting time going forward for our profession!

Welcome to 2014!

As promised, we just pushed an update to Wildlife Rehabilitation MD that was packed full of some very simple but also very important changes. Basically all the updates follow one theme, “streamline”. We have made fewer fields required, simplified some of the navigation, clarified some of the language and fixed a number of annoying bugs. For a complete list of all the changes visit this link

Batch Updating

One new feature that was always intended to be part of Wildlife Rehabilitation MD is Batch Updating. This is perfect for those times when you have a handful of records that need to have the same information updated on each of them. To do a batch update first search for the records that need updating then click the Batch Update link on top of the List Records screen. On the Batch Update page you will need to choose the field(s) that you want to update, their values and whether or not you want to overwrite any existing value in the field(s) or just append your new value.

Accessing Your 2013 Records.

For those that still have records pending from 2013, you can access those records by two different ways. Either go to the Dashboard and change the drop down list under “Switch to a Previous Year“ to 2013 or you can search for a specific case, ex: 2013-123. You can do this search from either the Quick Search field or case number field in-between the record paging buttons.

Once you are looking at a record that IS NOT a 2014 record you will notice that some things are obnoxiously red in color. This is just to remind you that you are not working with a record from the current calendar year.

Thank You!

This past year has been amazing and inspiring for us as we have been developing Wildlife Rehabilitation MD, all thanks to you the users. Without you, we would still only be a good idea but in fact we are now a very real and strong community.

Thank you all,
— The Wild Neighbors Database Project team