DIY

The medical profession: How similar are doctors to IT engineers?


I had to visit my doctor today, I had injured my shoulder and there were complications that involved the visit.

The doctor asked me if I had lost consciousness during my fall and proceeded to arrange a series of tests, including blood pressure monitoring, an ECG, blood tests, x-rays and a course of physiotherapy.

I did not find it easy to describe my symptoms, and it reminded me of a site visit I did where I asked the customer what the problem was. He replied in a flash, “You’re the computer guy, you should be telling me!”

The doctor had a similar experience to relate, apparently it is not unusual for a patient to say, “You’re the doctor, you tell me!” when asked what the problem is.

It seems that both professions go about their work in a similar manner.

Personally, I think the doc has the easier end of the deal.

He asks where the pain is and the patient tells him. I talk to PCs all the time and they remain obstinately mute. Indeed, if I am caught talking to the boxes, people start to ask me where the pain is.

Doctors have their diagnostic tools and so do we. They use stethoscopes, we use event logs.

They use thermometers and sphygmomanometers; we use screwdrivers, key disks, and readme files.

The thing we have in common is that we asses the symptoms, make a diagnosis, and prepare a plan of treatment.

When we work methodically and stick to a plan we get the results.

When troubleshooting we need to follow the process that the doctor follows: observe, question, examine.

When we have formed an opinion of the nature of the fault or medical condition we test, then we fix and test again.

I suppose what I am trying to say is this: If we take ourselves seriously as a profession and follow a professional method of working, we could perhaps one day be treated as professionals.

11 comments
osowande
osowande

A good analogy, however, doctors kinda have to get it right first time, while we can try different resolutions till we find something that works..

unhappyuser
unhappyuser

I've used the doctor analogy many times over the years. At a company where I was the service manager we actually treated our dept somewhat like the emergency room. We did triage on the units in the shop and in the field. If you had a sticky mouse issue (a cut finger that needed stitches) and call on a bad invoice printer printehead (a broken leg) came in you might have to wait as that call may need immediate attention depending upon its importance. If you were the printhead call and a bad hard drive (heart attack) with no backup came in, you'd be put on hold until that call was taken care of. It's worked well over the years but it hasn't gotten me that Prosche or the 100 foot yacht on the lake. EMD

spectrematrix
spectrematrix

I have had many conversations about this with doctor friends of mine.

jaklein
jaklein

I used this very compairison while working as a PC Technician at a local university. It was never uncommon for a professor or secretary to become agitated; or even angry, when I would begin asking questions to diagnose their PC troubles. Once I explained the ?Doctor analogy?, most users were a bit more forthcoming in answering my questions.

svc4you
svc4you

Must agree here. Major differences being: 1) Doctors have AT LEAST 8 years of schooling and 2 to 4 years of specialty education. Most support professionals have up to only a Master's, if even that. 2) Doctors have to pay malpractice insurance because if they screw up, they can lose their livelihood as well as their personal possessions through a lawsuit. If a tech screws up, they get blamed for it, or fired, but there is zero potential for them to lose all that they own. 3) I'm sorry, but I have yet to see someone DIE from a tech-support or field tech screw-up. I've been in the business a long time, and yes I've seen it seriously affect business, even put a business out of business. But, it hasn't killed anyone, that I've seen. Doctor's screwups have killed plenty of people. 4) The worth of the technical versus medical knowledge in the marketplace is significantly lower. If it was as valuable, you'd have good field/support techs making over $120K a year. Best I've seen is around $50 an hour. That said, I think techs do have a lot in common with the medical profession, but let's not go overboard here. Also, techs can attempt to change things and help change people's attitudes towards the value of their knowledge. For example, stop providing free support.

mcsebob
mcsebob

Both medical and IT training methods teach the science of the machine and how to diagnose and fix it whether it is a computer or a human body. What is also similar is the difficulty in dealing with the human interface to the body or the machine. The sciences we are taught are not that difficult once learned, but dealing with people is always a challenge. Having dealt with computers and bodies, I have to say that the human body is much more complex and variable than a computer or OS, but neither compare to the human personality.

WTRTH
WTRTH

... the jargon. If a doctor would say what's wrong with you, you wouldn't understand a word of it. Just like we tend to get too technical when explaining a user what's wrong with his computer. Ironically, my job is giving tech support to doctors.

rclark
rclark

Quote from Hugh Laurie on House. I don't know the number of times I finally tracked down the root cause of a problem despite vehement denials of guilt and out right protestations of innocence from the offending user. But they are my customer, so I just say, I don't know, but this looks like what happened. It could be some weird alignment of the constellations that caused it, but most likely someone did "X" or "Y" and that caused "Z". One of my friends recently had surgery on her eye and afterwards asked the doctor what had she done or not done that caused the problem. The doctor responded: "You lived long enough." Which points out a major difference. Systems grow old much more quickly than people. And systems evolve much more quickly than people. With the exception of virus evolution, the Mark I model of the human being hasn't changed all that much since medicine was invented. Not so the computer and computer languages. An equivalent would be for a patient to show up on the doctors doorstep one day and look like a snail. Same patient tomorrow looks like a wookie. Wait a week and maybe a disassociated energy cloud. Doctors have it easy. Their patients don't change that much. I hear the flames being stoked, "But our work isn't life and death!" Well, yeah, mostly not, but yeah, we are getting there with networks, power plants, interfaces to machines, and financial transfers. If a doctor screws up, one patient down the tube. We screw up and it can literally affect the human race. Hyperbole intended but not seriously.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

members of both professions are approached at social gatherings and expected to diagnose someone's aunt's problem, sight unseen, with no personal history, and free of charge.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

When a doctor has a patient that's been dead and buried for a year, nobody wants to dig the patient up and rehash his problems.

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