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An introduction to data and information in health and social care
An introduction to data and information in health and social care

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7.1.4 Controlling the machine

The major task of a TV’s microcomputer is to control the actions of the machine in accordance with the user's preferences and wishes, while ensuring that it provides the content to the user in an acceptable form. To do this, the computer is electrically attached to a variety of mechanisms of control, such as light sensors, remote sensors, internet connections, power supply and connectors (both physical and remote – WiFi, Bluetooth).

Activity 20 Computer-controlled devices in the workplace

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

To finish off this topic, consider any computer-controlled devices in your workplace, and any improvements you might suggest, using these questions as prompts:

  • What role do computer-controlled devices play in your workplace?

  • Is any information collected, processed, stored or distributed?

  • What's the user interface like?

  • How do you interact with the device?

  • Are there built-in safety controls?

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Here are some example notes, though yours may vary:

  • They manage sensors and actuators to control the actions of mechanical devices such as cars, microwaves and washing machines.

  • They provide interfaces that enable the user to control the workings of the machine.

  • They control the machine’s actions in response to the user’s choices and the state of the machine.

  • They help deliver and manage care for patients, as well as how staff are employed, recruited, developed and allocated on a daily basis.

  • A multitude of examples exist, from imaging systems such as X-ray, CT and MRI, to electronic thermometers that wirelessly send information about a patient’s temperature to the patients record.

  • Off duty is managed through sophisticated rostering systems, that track working hours, study leave and annual leave, while also assuring the correct skill mix on a ward.

  • Portable technology is becoming more relevant to healthcare delivery, with iPads being used to collate information, action investigations and review information with patients being actively involved. This helps to democratise the decision-making process for those who may wish to have a more active role in their own care.

  • Aggregated data is used to evaluate and plan systems of care delivery, at population levels, and can also be used to help manage significant health events such as the outbreak of an infectious disease, by allowing those in control to map, plan and predict need and risk.