Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Simple Solutions

Image by LittleMan

This week, the Health2.0 conference is delving into the symbiotic relationship between technology and health care. I'm sure that the exhibition hall is jam packed with knee-slapping well, goooollleeee displays.

For me, technology has vastly improved the quality of my communications with my doctors. My primary care physician and my rheumatologist, both my lifeline to success in dealing with my autoimmune disease, are most easily contacted via email. I can count on them to read my emails and respond within an hour or two, saving me a trip into the clinic (and the cost of a co-pay). When I do actually see them in a face to face appointment, we can focus on the bigger issues since some of the minor ones have been dealt with electronically.

Thinking about the value of all this gee-whiz technology brings to mind one of my earlier posts. If only all solutions in healthcare were this simple:

So we've been having problems with our computers over the past month.

I was very surprised at this since I have several very tech-savvy members in our family. As in That's What They Do For A Living savvy.

I know my strengths, which definitely do not include anything related to computer science, so I just brewed a pot of coffee and sat back to watch. It was very entertaining.

The problem-solving process involved delving deep inside the mysterious innards of laptops, towers, modems, routers, and wireless paraphernalia. Passwords were unlocked and settings were changed which involved acronyms and languages that I will never be able to comprehend. A internet provider technician was summoned to bring his van-full of yet more equipment to help diagnose the problem.

I marveled at the incredibly complicated discussions that took place with several people huddled in our study. Impressive looking meters and gauges materialized and were attached, read, and moved outdoors. Several telephone calls were made to tech support and endless conversations carried on over the speakerphone in cryptic computer-ese.

I heard furniture being moved, dogs banished from the study, indistinguishable phrases muttered under the breath, and several exasperated sighs.

I poured myself a second cup of coffee. This was getting good.

It has been years since I assisted in a surgery, but I felt that I might add some benefit to the situation by mopping brows and offering to pass instruments. Surprisingly, nobody took me up on my offer. As a matter of fact, I was ignored completely. Imagine that. Mildly insulted, I headed back to my perch on a kitchen stool and nursed my third mug of coffee.

At long last, we had a tenuous connection to the internet established. The connection was temperamental, however, and would be firmly in place for a few hours, then would mysteriously vanish. Another week of diagnostic frustrations ensued. More calls to the experts were made.

At last, my genius husband had an inspiration. Let's just look at the simplest, most basic things, he said.

He replaced a cable. A simple, inexpensive, grey cable found at Wal-Marts everywhere.

Presto chango! The heavens opened and the internet flowed copiously. Continuously. Extravagantly. And there was much rejoicing in John and Julia's house. I'm sure the neighbors were concerned about the racket.

Wouldn't it be great if all those complicated things in life could be fixed that easily? I think about all the complex diagnostics that my body has been subjected to over the last five years. I have had endless scans, scopes, x-rays, conduction studies, and blood samples drawn and evaluated. My medical chart must read like War and Peace. I need a rolodex to keep track of all the doctors that I see. I would love a simple fix to my autoimmune system.

I want a new Wal-Mart grey cable.

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