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July 2007 - Genies……

Recently I found myself pondering what I would do if I were given a lamp with a resident Genie. Would I leave the bung in and save it for a rainy day or let the Genie out and use my three wishes. What, I wondered would they be? I guess even more importantly, would I be better off if they were granted?

After much cogitation, I came up with the following.

  • Wish #1: Guidelines that actually provided guidance when consulted.
    I have consulted the latest ATS/ERS guidelines on a number of occasions of late and every time I have failed to elicit the guidance I was seeking. Yes, they do provide criteria against which equipment can be evaluated; yes they provide start of test and end of test criteria; but beyond that are ambiguous, vague and the advice is often poorly validated. The name of the game is consensus. It is interesting to note, I think, that the most definitive statements have originated form one lab or a small group of collaborators rather than a committee. Over the years we, as a Society, have done a lot to enhance and clarify guidelines and we have the knowledge and experience to continue doing so. We are in a strong position to do so, and to lead the way as a consequence.
  • Wish #2: Software documentation that provides the basis for the logic(?) behind decisions made during data processing.
    Without understanding how the software provided with equipment makes decisions, it is very difficult to troubleshoot 'peculiar' results. As with MDAS 20 years ago, I find myself again spending much time perturbing the system to see what the impact is on the results. This seems to be the only way to understand and hence manage the software. Yes it is very tempting to just let the system roll but this guarantees oddities in reports. When faced with difficult cases, we have to make decisions about instrument settings and so on. Without a clear understanding of the physiology and an equally secure understanding of the software machinations, it is next to impossible to make the best decisions. While technology has moved on, documentation has not. The presumption still seems to be that we really only need to know how to push the buttons.
  • Wish #3: Resources to develop a collegial environment across the Nations.
    I do not mean to suggest that we as a Society do not work together, far from it. What I long for is recognition of the need for resources to be applied to enabling regular meetings of colleagues to discuss issues, to challenge processes and guidelines, to broaden our research bases. The ASM serves as a display case for our work, but is too busy to foster the informal workshopping and brainstorming we need to continue our development. The Society has an incredible wealth of resources that I don't believe we are making a good job of tapping into because of resource constraints. Very few if indeed any of us have access to the resources needed to travel interstate to workshops perhaps twice a year. E-mail or phone hookups cannot compare with face to face brainstorming.
Well, there they are. The things I think would be of greatest value to me personally, would best enhance my ability to work as a professional and would enable the Society to enhance its international standing. What would you ask the Genie for?

'til next month,

K

July, 2007

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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