September 28th, 2010

Revolution Time

Once upon a time, I "worked" in the records department at a medical facility (hi, Doc). The records were stored in manila folders (some of them amazingly thick), on row after row of shelves, ferried out to (and retrieved from afterwards) the offices where patients were seen in heavy plastic bins by bright young lads (ahem) such as myself driving little electric golf carts, and to/from more distant locations in vans. Let me add that my portable computer at the time was a primitive Tandy 100 - about the size of a hardcover, with an 8-line 40-column monochrome LCD screen, and a separate acoustic modem. The kind with the rubber cups that the phone handset actually sat in. The picture I'm trying to paint here is of a world far closer to Gutenberg than Jobs, where everything was printed on and then lugged from place to place on paper because we'd barely figured out what to do with fire and the wheel.

But godsdamnit, this is two-thousand-and-fucking-ten. I have a fantastically useful computer not much bigger than a cigarette pack in my pocket, connected constantly in realtime (more or less, AT&T willing) to a global network comprised of everyone *else's* computers, pocket and otherwise. I can store a significant percentage of your average bookstore on that pocket computer. The government no longer (openly) equates using strong crypto with exporting nuclear weapons.

So why are my medical records still back in that damned stone age vault somewhere, instead of on a secure thumbdrive in my pocket (as well as being transmitted equally securely at the speed of sound, if not of light, between as many medical professionals as I have chosen to share them with)?

Both of my primary treatment centers are in Seattle, and the combination of living across the Sound and relying mostly on public transport means that an appointment at either of them, even for a short consultation, burns at least half a day. I made the trip over this morning to talk with my original surgeon about the second biopsy that the oncologist I'm currently seeing wants done. Very nice guy, done good work for me thus so far, and probably minimally to blame for today's screwup. But I got there to discover there had been no communication between the two doctors, and more critically, none of my scans or test results since March had been sent to him (despite Faith specifically noting that the records would be needed when she made the appointment). Even if I wasn't heading out of town tomorrow, getting the records can take a week or more, and there's an fair chance that even at that I'll have to ride the bus to location A, pick them up, and hand-carry them to location B myself. So it'll be another trip back in two weeks, probably missing some in-office training I'd been specifically trying not to schedule over. The day ended with a (very pleasant) assistant punching things into a computer for several minutes then, inevitably, walking over to the printer where her input had created several *more* pieces of paper.

What. The. Fuck. Why is it *far* faster/easier to get a perfect copy of a TV show from Britain (takes maybe twenty minutes, despite the best efforts of various media companies to prevent it) than to get a copy of my own medical records sent between two locations only a few miles apart (and in which case all parties involved have a presumed interest in making the transfer as easy as possible)? Why don't I have my own digital copy of them in my pocket? Why are they still stored/transported on paper and film at all?


On the plane to SoCal for Haunt tomorrow, so nothing can really bring me *that* far down. Unless it's the thought that the Gates of Hell have literally, not just metaphorically, opened up to SoCal this week - only thing that can explain the record-breaking heat wave. 113+ downtown (not that you'll catch me anywhere near there), 100+ even at the beach. Ugh. The last few years the heat has hit like a wave getting off the plane, this'll be more like a wall. Been gloriously overcast and cool and autumny *here*, wish I could take it with me.