imaginary family values presents

yesh omrim

a blog that reclines to the left


Another kind of bug you can get in the hospital

26 April 2007

As I have previously noted, most people who use spreadsheets don’t appreciate that spreadsheets are programs, and that when you have programs, you have bugs. And when you rely on spreadsheets in the emergency room, those bugs can have severe consequences:

The patient was a 3-month old baby showing “clinical signs of meningococcal sepsis with petechiae, purpura, and shock” (whatever that might mean). The baby needed a precise concoction of twelve different drugs for treatment.

The dosages were calculated using a spreadsheet template which calculates required dose from weight, age, and so on. In a standard version of Excel it is possible to “lock” particular cells so they cannot be inadvertently edited. For example, you would lock the cell which stores the formula for the calculation, so that you can’t accidentally write over it.

Unfortunately, the software used here wasn’t the full-blown version of Excel or some functional equivalent, but something called PocketExcel. It doesn’t allow locked cells; someone tabbed into the wrong field and overwrote the calculated dose with the baby’s weight. Ouch!

via the haskell-cafe mailing list