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CloudView blog

Ideas and insights to help health care providers stay informed and profitable in today's challenging health care environment.

Farewell, Haiti

by Jamie Mercurio, Senior Manager, athenaGives

This Sunday, I began my week back on a JetBlue flight. The most surprising thing for me was being on an airplane on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, watching movies and news clips about plane hijackings.

Surprising to most others, however, was how normal our go-live in Haiti last week seemed. The team made it back to the U.S. on Friday evening after one of the most successful go-lives I’ve seen in over five years at athenahealth. This was due in no small part to the amazing dedication of the nurses, physicians, and administrators at Klinik Fonfred.

To us at home, it seems as though many Haitians have been dealt a bad card.  The men making gravel that we drove by most mornings stick out in my mind: They were making gravel by hand, hammering large rocks until they broke into smaller and smaller pieces. They worked on their project each and every day, a perfect example of the resiliency and fortitude of the Haitian people that witnessed throughout our trip. team

There are a few takeaways from last week that are at the top of my mind:

Attitude is Everything

The group noticed throughout the week the amount of positivity and optimism from everyone involved with the clinic.  I expected a certain patience, even tolerance for discomfort, from Klinik Fonfred’s staff.  Going live on a new EHR is stressful.  With slow internet, a shortened onboarding timeline, little experience with digital documentation, and a high volume of patients, it was a ripe environment for revolt. However, Dr. Moïse repeatedly thanked us for our help and support, in between his frequent jokes and laughter, especially when our “170 year old” patient necessitated a psychiatric referral.  What I was unprepared for was the resolve and tenacity Klinik Fonfred’s patients shared.  Many had walked miles to come to the clinic and often waited several hours to see a physician. They had serious diagnoses (many were suffering from pneumonia), but their calm and collected conversations with the physicians betrayed nothing.

Technology and Conversation Must Coexist

Several times, my team members and I found ourselves on the roof of our guest house in Les Cayes. It was one of the only places with a breeze, since we had arrived during an electricity blackout. We enjoyed the clear view of the stars and plenty of engaging conversations fueled by Prestige, the Haitian beer. Each of those nights, however, we had to choose between the stories we told and technology we used. Our generator, which powered our fans and chargers, was so loud as to drown out all conversation.

To me, this juxtaposes tellingly with the Streamlined version of athenaClinicals, which allows technology and conversation to coexist—even in Creole. Many patients at Klinik Fonfred are uneducated. Plenty of babies arrive without proper vaccinations, and some adults don't realize that their beloved Prestige contains alcohol. While quickly documenting encounters, all three of Klinik Fonfred’s providers preserved the precious time they spent with patients to digest their histories, provide education on self-care and medication management, and perhaps--most importantly--joking with and reassuring them. 

They added diagnoses via the “shopping cart” after initial discussions with patients without any explanation of the functionality. One of my favorite moments was seeing the surprise on the faces of each of the providers when, after adding a diagnosis, the medication they were about to search for appeared in the list of suggested orders. They thought it was magic, and I joked in agreement, but in reality, it was the power of the athenahealth network.

Network Becomes Family

During one of our days onsite, we had a bit of a family reunion, and it wasn’t even the first of the trip. One of our team members, Sandy Lazare, left Haiti with her family as a child and last saw her uncle in 1986. After learning she was back in her home country, Alfred Lamur traveled 2 hours just to see her.


It quickly became clear that Klinik Fonfred wasn’t just a part of our network, but a part of our family - like many of our other clients.  

Dr. Marsan, who saw the first patient on athenaNet at Klinik Fonfred, took us on a several hour journey after a long clinic day just to see a waterfall and its fresh water pool, one of many of Haiti’s hidden gems.  Another night, he invited us over his home for the evening, opening his doors so we could discuss athenahealth, the go-live, his experiences as a physician, and life in Haiti.

When Dr. Marsan sent a pediatric patient to the hospital, clinic staff paid for the necessary care. The two other providers at Klinik Fonfred trained abroad at medical schools in Cuba and the Dominican Republic. They could have easily stayed abroad, where there was more money and a better environment with supplies and infrastructure.  But both came back to Les Cayes and are working shifts at the local hospital in addition to full time roles at the clinic because they care about their community.

So merci, Klinik Fonfred.  athenaGives is proud to welcome you not just to the athenahealth network, but to the family.

We will follow up with Klinik Fonfred in the future, so keep an eye on the blog and follow @jamie_athn to see what the athenaGives team is up to next!

Manager of the athenaGives program.

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