Friday, November 29, 2013

More thoughts on automation

As I sat in the allergy office and watched the nurse enter data into my record, I immediately realized another use for autocrat in my daily work. Any time a task is repeated in the same way, I should be able to get a machine to do it. The trick is getting the information into a format the machine can use and then into a format the humans can make sense of. I might have solved half of those problems while waiting for the doctor to come.

In my job we give formal academic testing to each student every third year. There are a number of different sub-tests and even different main tests that the district likes to use. All of the tests and scoring programs I've used will spit out an electronic report in either (or both) a Word document or a rich text file (that's the .rtf extension).  I need to learn how to get a machine to parse through the text file, convert the standard scores from tab delimited text into spreadsheet data, and then run an autocrat-style mail-merge into the generic report template.  The spreadsheet could also talk to a student data information system (info dumped from SEIS?) and use the student's unique ID number to look up gender and then put in the correct gender pronoun in the tedious parts of the report--replacing the "his" for "her" is always difficult or at least time consuming.

I would leave the summary and recommendations up to the report writer, so the final document that the computer spits out cannot yet be a pdf.  Autocrat can handle that, however.

I think this would be a highly useful tool for case managers who are interested.  One benefit is that not everyone has to use this system if they don't want to.  Also, it should be quick and easy (relatively) to set up and get working now that I know a little of what I'm doing with the scripts.  The first step might be the hardest for me--making the computer parse a text document and convert.

This little project will be on the back burner until around March 2014, I think, due to some meetings coming up . . .