Wednesday, April 12, 2017

So: how many of the blue results for heavy cat were not salty?

No, I am not bald yet.

There are some thin patches, though.

About a year and a half ago, the lab installed a fancy new program to deal with all the different requests for testing, their progress, the results, pretty much everything.  It was a difficult switch, but we got through it alright. One of the last things we gave up doing manually was counting how many tests of what kind we reported, and how long it took for each one, and what the result was. Adding a line to an Excel file, diligently, every single time one of the three senior people wrote a results report, was just a stupid and annoying redundancy. We paid a fortune for a program that can do that for us, at the click (or ten) of a mouse.

Personally, I was kind of attached to my Excel file. Used to be I was the only person who did the reports, and in my view it wasn’t much time out of my day and I could trust the sums at the end of the month and the annual bottom line.

Then when my colleagues came along and were also writing up reports I was glad for the help, but the certainty that my accounts table was complete became less sure but still close enough.

And still later, they both objected to my wasting their time once the new tool was in place. So with having the new system in place for the entire year of 2016, the sorting of the beans for that year should be entirely automated, and therefore we stopped adding lines to a table one at a time. My colleagues were pretty much on strike anyway and the manual system was getting farther from accurate every day.

And now it is the hour to render our accounts to the government.

Only, now I want the details of how many relatives of patients we tested for a certain defect in a certain gene, and how many of them had the defect or not, and how many other tests were done in a certain context and not another. Now those details just aren’t coming out in any coherent fashion.

So maybe me questions aren’t properly phrased – it’s a computer program, after all, you have to ask it things in a particular way; get all of your conditions right so that the search in the database brings back all the good stuff, and only the good stuff.

Eh, half the good stuff is missing, and an unknown but significant portion of the stuff here is nonsense.

Even my computer guy who’s the expert on the system can’t get it to tell us something reasonable. He even called the developers, who may not really understand my questions, fundamental as they are, and it isn’t any better.

Now the boss is calling for his numbers, and he said last month it didn’t matter if they were estimates, so I estimated. Only, my estimates of how many results of what kind we reported don’t match with the estimates of how many patients we saw in each particular context. Those numbers are someone else’s task, and I have not seen them. Never mind that there’s a gap of a month or more between me reporting a result and the patient having their appointment, so the numbers never match exactly anyway. But they’re farther apart than the boss thinks is presentable.

So here I am with my computer, wishing I had taken (and that I could have convinced my colleagues to take) 1 minute longer for each report, just to add a line to a table. Just 1 damned minute.

For the boss, it is just inconceivable that a computer program costing hundreds of thousands of euros cannot simply and accurately extract this same information from its database. Therefore, it can do so.

Only, no, it can’t.

The information I need gathered is stored at different levels, in different boxes and categories and technical whatnots, and Ariane simply cannot understand that –yes- I tested a person for the family’s mutation, but –no-, she doesn’t carry it. If such people exist they will be ignored.

What am I doing about it? What’s my work-around?

My first approach would be to make the computer people help me ask the right questions and prove the boss right. But this is France, and it’s Easter soon, and all the computer people are on vacation.*

So my second approach is to realize that I can bring up a screen (though, alas, not an exportable list) showing all the reports sent out in 2016. And then I can go to each dossier and open each report, one at a time, and note on some handy table the 3 (just 3!) bits of information I need. Then, some hours later, I will be done.

Really, people. Sometimes the slow way is the fast way.


*just while we’re on about computer programs being so clever & all, in Word here I’m getting a little squiggly green line telling me I should correct the “it’s” in that sentence to “its”. Perhaps Word thinks France owns Easter?