Ramblings: My SIM card went dead (and why it relates to health informatics)

I’d like to share something interesting that happened to me last week – my SIM card went dead all of a sudden (while I was using the phone).

Now my first reaction when that happened was – the phone is faulty and for the record, it’s a brand new phone (My Dopod was functioning fine but the battery is so old that it can no longer last for more than 1/2 a day so I got myself a new phone) and I did what any self-respecting techie will do – try to troubleshoot.

I tested my faulty SIM card with my 2 other mobile phones – didn’t work, I tested my wife’s SIM card with my phone – worked fine. So it was obvious, my SIM card malfunction in the midst of its usage and I had no choice but the wait till the next day to visit the service center to get it replaced.

My visit to the service (for this purpose) was;

  1. Time consuming as I had to forgo my lunch, drive to the nearest service centre, queue and wait for quite a fair bit
  2. Non-informative as the customer service representative didn’t provide a reason for why the SIM card fail (but he was not even remotely surprised so I suspect this happens quite often)

Now, what does this have to do with health informatics? 🙂

Well to reconstruct this scenario in the world of let say, medical imaging informatics;

  1. A technical error occurred, the first thing that the end-user will think that the fault lies with the PACS solution, however, it could easily be due to the network, hospital’s HIS, modality, other hardware component failures, anti-virus, firewall  etc. The PACS itself could be functioning properly but it will get the ‘blame’ as it is the main component that the end-user is facing when an error occurs
  2. Now it would be unreasonable to expect clinical end-user to perform troubleshooting when an error occurs but simple troubleshooting (e.g. Ping) by supporting staff (maybe the rad-tech) can help quickly narrow the error source
  3. Most solution providers / PACS Administrators do not provide the necessary education / information update to the end-user. It is beneficial to have the end-users be informed on what exactly happened, how it was fixed and what could be done to prevent it (e.g. end-user related error) but of course, use non-technical language 🙂
  4. There is also expectation management, stuff like SIM cards have a lifespan, so does other hardware components like batteries. In the example of medical imaging informatics again, stuff like monitors, keyboard, pointing devices etc have life span too. Things breakdown, set proper expectations to your end-users.
  5. Backup Backup Backup. There are some components in your PACS solution that does not have a high availability option. Are you prepared to handle the situation when it fails? Have you done your backup?
    (I can buy spare batteries for my phone, keep a spare phone around, backup my SIM card but if my SIM card fails, I’m kind of stuck with ‘a problem’)

Now its much easier to fix a problem with my mobile phone as the technology is much more consumer friendly but when mobile phones were first release, I’m sure most users had problem and blamed the phone (and the service provider) whenever something went wrong. I’m sure health informatics will evolved to where mobile phones are now – consumer friendly enough for the average joe to perform troubleshooting, till then, let’s do our best to educate and set the right expectation

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