When your doctor’s computer crashes

Earlier this week, as I write this, our office lost a skirmish against technology.

It was my procedure day, where lucky patients file in awaiting the pleasures of scope examinations of their alimentary canals. A few will swallow the scope (under anesthesia), but most will have back-end work done. We are a small private practice equipped with an outstanding staff. We do our best every day to provide them with the close personal attention they deserve.

The first patient of the day is on the table surrounded by the medical team. The nurse anesthetist and I have already briefed the patient on what is about to transpire. Propofol, the finest drug in the universe, is introduced into her circulatory system, and her mind drifts into another galaxy. I pick up the colonoscope, which is locked and loaded for action, and the screen goes dark. Our nurse goes through a few steps of messing around with plugs and doing a quick reboot, but we are still in the dark. I glance at the back of the scope cart and have an eye-popping moment when I see dozens of wires and connectors coursing off the cart in a collage of chaos.

After 5 minutes, when it is clear that the Almighty has not declared, “let there be light,” we transport the patient into the recovery area where she is awakened. Patients in the recovery area never remember their procedure. This time, there was no procedure to remember.

There was tension in our office as we contemplated our options for colonoscopy patients who took the day off, arranged for a driver and swallowed the required liquid dynamite to cleanse their bodies and souls. We called the hospital who could not accommodate on short notice request for multiple procedures. I was not willing to cancel anyone and told my staff that I would stay until midnight to get the work done.

Our IT professional was in our office in 30 minutes. I think he was the youngest person in the building. When your IT guy is sweating and stumped, you know you’re in trouble.

So, here we were with an able gastroenterologist, a crack staff, patients ready for probing, but we were paralyzed because a computer monitor was in a coma. It’s a reminder that we have all had of how totally dependent we are on our technology. Even at home when the modem goes out, we feel that our oxygen supply has been compromised.

Here’s the denouement of the drama. About 2 hours after the first case was to have started, we concocted a workaround, which allowed our cases to proceed. So, we won this skirmish against technology. But, I fear they are regrouping, lying in wait for their next strike.

Michael Kirsch is a gastroenterologist who blogs at MD Whistleblower.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

Leave a Comment

KevinMD logo - transparent