If one spends eleven hours in a hospital it surely isn’t just another day, and it merits a journal entry. I’m just going to scribble down some thoughts that ran through my mind as the day progressed.
Background: wife was ill; she was treated by a local doctor, but had symptoms that necessitated further checks. We reached the hospital around 10:30 am.
The lady at counter found it difficult (using the system) to register our case, due to some reason. She cursed the system. I sympathized with her; computers are not easy to use. Ask my mother.
Medicine is a lot like an elimination game – using the symptoms, find out possible causes, and through tests eliminate one cause after another until a test reveals the actual cause. In our case, the actual cause was not found at all. After eleven hours of hopping from one department to another, we left for home with the information that nothing was wrong with my wife. On one hand it was good to know that there was no serious problem, but on the other, it left the puzzle unresolved. Why did the symptoms occur, then?
This nature of medicine is what permits – in simple cases – Expert Systems to substitute for humans. Using a database and a set of rules, a system could have prescribed the tests and also come to the conclusions (based on the test results) that the doctors arrived at today. (Of course I’m oversimplifying, and this is an outsider’s picture from someone who doesn’t know anything about medicine. But the day’s events revealed this side of medicine).
Every test that was done needed equipment of such sophistication that it left me dazed. And the glue between the different machines was software that permitted controlling all that complexity. Just being there, watching all those systems being used to determine aspects crucial to the diagnosis, emphasized the huge importance of software working well – one system failure at such a place and who knows what the consequence could be. The social value of software cannot be over-estimated.
The hospital staff did a marvellous job of co-ordinating our case between the different departments. At one stage, when one test (in Neurology) was held up due to results that were awaited (from ENT), they scheduled another test that could be done in the meantime (in yet another department).
I saw more technology today than what my grandmother would have seen in her whole life. Yet, I couldn’t help wondering if her own remedies would have been enough to handle symptoms my wife was experiencing.
If the test results had been different, so would my conclusions about the day.