Thursday, 27 January 2011

Is the problem solved?

Sometimes I despair of technology and bureaucracy, certainly in combination. My wife has cancer and things are looking bleak, but in the last year she has been sent from one department to another in Amsterdam’s large academic hospital, the VUmc. It took them more than a year to discover that her cancer was back. By then, much too late, she decided to return to Amsterdam’s National Cancer Institute (AvL/NKI) for further treatment. However that is not always an easy thing to do, certainly when CT, PET and MRI scans are involved along with the relevant equipment produced by Siemens - using Sectra software at the VUmc and using Carestream at the AvL. 
Repeatedly in the last few weeks we’ve been informed by one doctor after another at the AvL that they cannot peruse the scans they had received from the VUmc. These were the scans made while she was still attending the old hospital, and that are needed now to compare the state of the cancer now  in January and back then in October/November. So today we took another CD along with us and gave it to the radiology department at the AvL. However the AvL radiologist made it clear he was not going to look at the images on the scan because he couldn’t read them into his system. He could have looked at them using the viewer software provided on the CD, but this is second best. By making a nuisance of ourselves, we managed to find out that two major hospitals in Amsterdam – the AvL/NKI and the neighbouring Slotervaart Hospital are both unable to use CDs of scans sent by the VUmc. And vice versa. This has been going on since November, but the problem has still not yet been solved. Apparently Sectra has decided to wait for the next major release of their software before fixing this bug. But if the problem can't be solved on the spot, then think up a workaround. For instance, use the old Radworks (by GE Healthcare) to burn the CDs.  


  1. Sectra called me today and said that they were only made aware of the problem on 9 January. It strikes me that there is a fundamental communication problem - because the AvL knew about it in November. The problem is of course that the AvL is not a customer of Sectra and so would report the problem either to its own software provider Carestream or to the hospital that sent the offending CD. That might have been the VU or maybe not. That might explain the six-week delay before Sectra found out about this severe bug.
    The Sectra representative did offer to get the scans converted if that was needed, but as far as I know the VU has already promised a version that does work.

  2. Siemens Benelux has been in touch to wash its hands of the issue. It's a problem between Sectra and Carestream. But Sectra and VUmc are apparently "consulting" about a solution to the major problem that has existed since November 2010. AMC and AvL can exchange CDs with no problem, but neither can read CDs exported from the Sectra system at the VUmc. This problem should be solved in hours, not months. (Let Sectra know:

  3. I have been informed that de VUmc installed a patch yesterday that should solve the bug. It's taken more than three months, but let's hope it works and doesn't take three months next time someone "updates" the software.

  4. It has also become apparent that the other major academic hospital in Amsterdam, the AMC, was unable to use scans from the VUmc for a period of several months. There are some major communications problems if THAT was not enough reason for someone somewhere at Sectra to extract thumb from bum and sort out the problem.