How long does it take an NHS doctor to turn on a computer?

Hint: Hmm, perhaps diagnose the difference between a PC and a monitor

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On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our regular look at situations readers have confronted when their phones ring at awkward hours and they're asked to fix things up.

This week, we're sharing a tale told by reader Dan, who tells us: “A number of years ago I was in a second line tech support role at a hospital in South Devon.”

Nice part of the world, that. And the gig sounds decent because Dan was on call just once a fortnight and even then didn't expect much trouble.

“I was armed with a laptop and 3G data card, just in case some doctor locked themselves out of their account again,” he recalls. “Probably the 10th time that month.”

Come the fateful day, Dan “received a call at 2am from a doctor who was 'trying to access the PACS machine'.”

PACS, as Dan pointed out, is a Picture Archiving and Communication System. Or to you and I, a storage array dedicated to storing the output of medical imaging devices so that healthcare folks can peer at your innards and bones on a screen instead of having to flap films about.

PACS systems play a decent part in storage history: Data General's Clariion arrays were designed in part to power PACS, which was one reason EMC acquired the company.

But we digress. Dan responded to the doctor with a request for the machine's asset number, so he could remote into the device and sort things out.

The code the doctor provided failed.

“Can you confirm the computer is turned on?” Dan asked?

“Yes,” the doctor replied. “There's a standby light on the front.”

“Can you turn the tower on please,” Dan asked, a request that produced lots of fumbling sounds and a report from the doctor to the effect that “It's on but the screen is staying blank, oh hang on the light's gone from green to orange again.”

At which point Dan figured out that the doctor had managed to successfully turn on a monitor.

Which meant it was time to get granular with the following instructions:

“Can you please find the computer, follow the cables on the back of the screen, one will go to a wall socket, and the other will take you to the computer. When you find the computer, please turn it on.”

“Oh,” the doctor said. “Oh. Actually, it wasn't turned on at the wall socket.”

By this point, 90 minutes had elapsed. And yes we do mean a nine followed by a zero. As in an hour and a half.

So how did the doctor react?

“He just hung up,” Dan recalls. “And doctors are supposed to be bright?”

If you've a story similar to Dan's, feel free to share yours by sending me a message. ®

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