Robot, Heal Thyself

Monday, January 12, 2004
So I follow a medical informatics blog since it is sometimes relevant to software I’m currently working on. The blog had a post about an Alabama Hospital trying out an “RN Robot”. This reminded me of a Wired article last year about a Hopkins trail with a “robotic medical surrogate”. I found this article interesting but also amusing because of the following two excerpts:

"People love it. I was very surprised how much our patients enjoy remote video interactions via the robot," says Dr. Louis Kavoussi, a Johns Hopkins professor of urology and a pioneer in robotic surgery

… One patient said she barely noticed Kavoussi had been replaced by a robot.

Obviously amusing to read. Also:

"Even the patients with dementia seemed unsurprised by (the robot's) presence,"

I can imagine there are some patients with illnesses where you just don’t want an android rolling into the room unexpectedly.

In any case, this got me to thinking about some of the hospitals I’ve been in with my current job. The number of nurses who have moved into IT departments initially surprised me. After talking to them, it is pretty obvious why. After ten or fifteen years of being on call and working the midnight shift on a holiday weekend before a major blizzard, any position which is (in theory, anyway) a 9-5 job looks pretty swell. Nurses are highly educated people who can learn new concepts.

What also surprised me was the reporting software some of these nurses / IT people need to use. The report language looks something like:


…
@Est.buf(BUF,@ptemp),
IF{@occupation!@emp.status @occupation_IF{@emp.status " ("_@emp.status_")"}^/MV["P",Q+1^Q,5]},
IF{@employer^employer,
…


Egads. I thought I was back in a mainframe college course 15 years ago. This is not legacy software - this stuff is sold and installed today.

But that’s ok – wherever there is inefficiency there is opportunity…


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