Monday, September 5, 2016

Of Falls, Medicine, and Technology

Yesterday I had a great fall, and there’s nothing as great as a knock on the head to drive a few points home. Jesus completely freaked out and the mother of Jesus was in quite a state. One thing that came out is that I really have to take another look at home safety. The effect of my fall on Jesus and his mother is not something I’d want either of them to feel again. However I am still well, not any more insane, and, outside a splitting headache, not really much the worse for wear.

As a result of this great fall I found myself at the Nairobi West Hospital. This hospital has what is called “state of the art” equipment which includes a computerised tomography scanner, and on Sundays they charge twice the amount to diagnose you, however they give you half the service since you do have to collect the report the next day instead on immediately as, I was told, usually happens on “normal” days. What stuck me as most odd is the methods used to distribute the scans and reports. The scans are put on film which is then carried over to the doctor so that he can put it on a light table (those of us in graphics remember that ancient technology) to examine them. He gets an eye glass to look at small sections clearly and, finally, there is a written report on paper (a medium only us ancient folks appreciate) that he will get a copy of.

To summarise the salient points, boys and girls, we have a state of the art computerised scanner that can, apparently, only output to film that a doctor has to use an eye piece in order to see the small details and a report that, apparently, can only be put on paper to be read by the same interested parties.

This situation took me back three years ago when we were having a peek at Jesus while he was still swimming in amniotic fluid with nary a care. Again we went to a scanner (this time it was several hospitals), and one of them was considered as the latest in technology as it could even selectively apply colour to the scan. However, on asking, I was told that it still has to be put on film as there is no way the computer generated image can be email, or even saved to flash disk, and it has something to do with Philips, copyrights, and the reluctance of doctors to be sued for distributing these images on a non approved format.

First, it struck me as rather inefficient. A set of films have to be carried across from the labs to the consulting rooms, examined with eye glasses a report, similarly carried across, read, and finally a doctor writes his recommendation. In Nairobi West Hospital it was even more ironic as the doctor sent his prescription via email to the pharmacist. What I wondered is why couldn’t this computer generated image be sent to the doctor via email, or even cloud upload, the doctor examines it on his computer which would allow him to blow it up easily, search for cracks and fissures, and even make annotations.

So my question really is, why is medical equipment hampered in this manner? Why is it that state of the art medical equipment still has to rely on old technology to get it’s results out? What is it about the Medical profession that prevents them for embracing new modern methods of data collection, analysis and storage?

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