Connections - Drug and Alcohol Assessment System


It is well known that many prisoners are in gaol for drug and alcohol related reasons. In order to reduce recidivism Justice Health established a program called Connections. The aim of this program is to make sure that once prisoners are released back into society they are linked into appropriate services aimed at breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol abuse and the associated criminality.

Justice Health started the program using a set of paper based forms. In all there were nearly 70 pages of forms aimed at assessing the support needs of the client. However there were an increasing number of completed forms and no way of recording the data, or being able to analyse, or refer to it easily. By the time Meridian was approached there were over 4,000 filled forms.


The aim of the data collection was to assess the key problems and needs of the client. The assessment covers a range of areas including, education, money, drug and alcohol use and history, health, social contacts, accommodation, offending behaviour, identification, issues, demographics and health assessments.



Meridian quickly realised that this requirement was ideally suited to using it’s intelligent clinical data management technology, Clinixian. Clinixian is an award winning application that supports the rapid development of electronic clinical applications.

The technology had already been very successfully used for maternity care and for sub acute and non acute clinical assessment and monitoring.

The approach underlying Clinixian is to separate the clinical knowledge from the application code by providing two major components, a modeller and an application browser.

The modeller allows expert users, such as clinicians, to define the data terminology, associated rules and reporting. The modeller records all this knowledge in a database called the subject model. This subject model is easily maintained by one or more expert user.


As explained, the use of Clinixian enables the customer to take control of the application development process. In the case of the Connections project, Justice Health already had a set of forms in Microsoft Word format. Thus a significant amount of the terminology and questions were available in electronic form.

In order to help speed up the development process MHI wrote some simple scripts to migrate the Connections forms into a holding area in the model database. MHI also created a cut and past function in the model to enable the modeller to select the relevant items and paste them into the model. This method saved many hours of keying in data items/questions.

MHI ran a short Modelling training course for the Justice Health staffers assigned to building the Connections Model. These staffers then did an excellent job of rapidly developing the Model. In the meantime MHI set up the integration with the patient administration system used by Justice Health via HL7 messaging. In a matter of weeks the Justice Health team had managed to complete the model and start testing the application. Testing only took two weeks and the Connections System was then put into production for a statewide use.