Team Heart

Heart surgery requires 2,000 individual pieces of equipment. This non-profit uses a custom app to keep track of them all.

When Team Heart lands in Rwanda to perform lifesaving surgeries, they rely on a custom app built on the FileMaker Platform to keep track of supplies.


  • Custom app built on the FileMaker Platform helps non-profit deliver lifesaving care.


  • Healthcare/Medical Services


  • Inventory management app tracks more than 2,000 pieces of medical equipment.


  • Team Heart's custom app for inventory management enables them to plan medical trips with greater precision and confidence.

In 2005, Rwanda was still reeling from a genocide that had left one million citizens dead. The country was in desperate need of help rebuilding fractured infrastructure, bodies and minds.

Ceeya Bolman, a cardiac nurse from North Carolina, walked straight into that need. Bolman traveled to Rwanda for the first time at the request of a friend. The ask? Tour a recently established hospital.

The facility Bolman visited was rudimentary at best, without running water or electricity. In one ward, beds were packed with boys and young men afflicted with rheumatic heart disease. Many had hearts so enlarged Bolman could see them beating against their chests from across the room. After the genocide, the country had no more than a handful of cardiac surgeons, so many patients went untreated.

“I looked at one boy and thought, ‘Why should he die just because he was born in Rwanda instead of Boston?'” said Bolman.

That question, and a plea from the friend who invited her, drove Bolman and her husband to found Team Heart, which performs cardiac surgeries, delivers medical equipment and shares medical knowledge in the country, where only a handful of cardiac surgeons remained in a nation of more than 12 million people.

It's very stressful to prepare for volunteer trips, but our custom app gives me peace of mind.

— Ceeya Bolman
Team Heart 1

Saving lives through better inventory management

Team Heart volunteers perform 16 cardiac surgeries in Rwanda annually. 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.

The stakes are high, and each piece of equipment must be meticulously accounted for. That critical need is where a custom app built on the FileMaker Platform enters.

Prior to adopting the custom app in 2013, Team Heart 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. Lives were at stake and the app helped minimize the kinds of costly errors that Team Heart didn’t have time for.

Before Team Heart had begun using its custom app, for instance, 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, many of them nurses like Bolman, 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.

A custom app for education

The custom app allows Team Heart volunteers to share their knowledge with young medical professionals in Rwanda.

“We take photos of each piece of equipment and write a description of what it’s used for and which department needs it,” Bolman noted. “When Rwandan medical residents observe Team Heart surgeons, they’re given folders containing cards with detailed descriptions and images of each piece of equipment.”

The cards act as an aid that allows surgeries to also function as medical training classes.

“In a country like Rwanda, they don’t have every piece of equipment yet,” said Bolman. “They might be seeing some equipment for the first time, and we need to teach nurses, doctors and residents what each clamp, respirator circuit and needle holder is for.”

A new way to track success

Bolman says she also looks forward to developing an a custom app designed to manage patient wellness after surgery.

She envisions a custom app powered by FileMaker Go. 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.

The data is precious to Bolman as she embarks on an even bigger project: building a cardiac care hospital in Rwanda.

“We don’t consider Team Heart a success until every affected child has returned to school, mothers are caring for their families again, and fathers are back at work,” she said.

To learn more about the FileMaker Platform, download your free trial. To learn how to build your first custom app, visit the Custom App Academy to watch a series of free educational video tutorials.


Team Heart