Pictures of You

I like technology. I like medicine. I should have been a radiologist. I’m in the wrong career. I realise that now…

In the real world of the 21st century you have computers, most of you do all your work on computers. All your records are on computers.

Not so in medicine, at least not in Craigavon Hospital…

Currently when you arrive a reception, your details are booked onto  a DOS based system (with lovely red, green and black colours) and a dot matrix printer prints them on a triplicate carbon copy sheet that I make my notes on when I’ve seen you. Those of you were there in the eighties will know what I mean by all that.

I make notes with a shaft of plastic filled with ink called a pen. I make odd, uninterpretable symbols with this device that communicate what has happened during your stay.

When you leave, the various bits of the triplicate carbon copy go to various places in the department and are stored in reception in little cardboard envelopes in a big machine that rotates.

If I want to look at those notes then I have to turn the big machine and find your name in alphabetical order and read the piece of paper.

And this is just the emergency department. You should see the main hospital notes –  a chaotic mass of dog eared cardboard and paper filled with poorly timed and dated illegible nonsense about physicians rubbing their hands over whether to give you 2 or 4 litres of oxygen a minute.

This is current practice. It shows little sign of changing.

However when it comes to the fancy pictures we take we have moved on somewhat. Someone decided that perhaps digital storage and display of the images produced by small doses of something similar to what pours out of Chernobyl, would be a good idea.

In many parts of the western world, and many parts of Northern Ireland this is already happening.

Our wonderfully effective and always sensible devolved assembly decided that they would make a ton of money available into implementing digital radiology over the entire province. All so that I, in Craigavon can see the x-ray of your big toe that you had done in the Royal Victoria Hospital 2 weeks ago.

One would think this is simple.

It has required employing full time staff to solely dedicate themselves into working out how to do this. It means lots and lots of hi-res screens and computers being installed and lots of negotiations of where to put them, and lots of arguing on whether or not we’ll be allowed to show World Cup matches on them…

I was at my first implementation meeting today –  lots of people asking lots of really useful and important questions about what we do when the computers crash (not if but when), are we going to keep a printer somewhere as back up? What do we do with all the locum doctors who come – are they going to have log-ins to use the system?

We go live – or dead – March 29th. It’s like the day the new doctors start – stay away from the hospital.

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February 2010
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