Why am I still manually FTPing X-Rays in 2016?

I have a confession to make. Until this week I haven’t been to a dentist in seven years. My previous dentist gave me the hard sell about a ‘cosmetic smile package’ that would have run about $15,000, and I basically rage-quit the profession. Of course my righteous indignation only hurt me, not the shady dentist. But my teeth felt fine, I’m actually pretty good about brushing and flossing, so I figured I was fine.

As you would figure from the intro, I was not fine. Along the way I cracked a tooth, which since it also didn’t bother me, I ignored in my one-person, silent protest of the dental industry. Until this past weekend. Starting mid-Thursday I noticed my bite pattern had changed and I had some swelling and numbness in the part of my jaw under the crack. Only hours later I was in agony. Friday morning I made some phone calls to endodontists in the area. The first appointment I could get was the following Thursday. I figured I could hold out. I was wrong.

What followed was one of the most painful weekends I can remember. At one point I drove myself to the 24-hour supermarket to buy Orajel (which didn’t help at all). Thankfully my wife, who is amazing and much better at crisis management than I called the after hours number for our family dentist (I did mention it was a one-person protest? My wife and kids get regular checkups), got them to call in a prescription for antibiotics to manage my now comically-swollen jaw, and some heavier-duty painkillers. She also got me a Tuesday appointment.

Freshly drugged-up I made it through the weekend and Monday. Sheepishly I showed up for the Tuesday a.m. appointment, where the dentist confirmed with X-Rays that I had an infection in the jaw and the tooth needed a root canal (and crown, but who’s counting).

After the eval, he mentioned that he was too booked for the next few weeks to be able to do the root canal in house. So he gave me a brochure for an endodontist practice in the area with instructions to call to get an appointment. He also gave me a manilla envelope with a printed version of the digital X-Rays his office took. Here they are:

Not entirely sure what I’m supposed to do with these

On the way home, it hit me. It’s 2016. The promise of instant collaboration through the Internet has been around since the 90s, from many smart people. And that promise, now legally old enough to buy a round for the bar, is flipping me the bird from its quaint manila envelope.

Why, in 2016, can my dentist not send these files directly? Or at least, give me a digital copy (to go along with my entire medical history which of course I have personal access to at any time and can choose to share with providers as I see fit) so I can take it with me? In 2016, X-Rays should not be bendy.

And it’s not like my dentist’s office is behind the times. The X-Ray machine takes and stores digital images. I saw on the computers they have in every patient room a fairly robust, if Win32-y, electronic dental record system. And yet, I have this folder. In 2o+ years of amazing technical progress, this feels like a severely sour note.

We’ve made amazing technical advances. I’m in the industry; I’ve helped build some small parts of them. It just feels like our priorities for the problems we elect to solve are way out of whack. I have eleven social network accounts. I’m on twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, github, Google+ (if that still exists?), Keybase, Strava, I have three separate tumblrs for some reason, Instagram, Medium of course, and I’m probably the oldest person on 🍑 . There are dozens more accounts I have but just don’t use enough to make linking them here worthwhile. All of the companies that chose to build these products, or any of the tens of thousands of entrepreneur/VC combos from the last 20 years. could have at any point decided to train their energy and considerable intellect on the problem of me needing to manually FTP (walk) these X-Rays from one provider to another. And yet here we are. Watery social networks everywhere, nor any drop to drink. That’s not to say that the social networks don’t have value — I use some of them a lot! But for every successful consumer site there are dozens, maybe hundreds, that outright burned through money and crashed. Here’s a real problem, with real potential customers, and no solutions. On the other hand we have all these solutions in search of a problem. I saw a tweet a while ago that really resonated with me:

I admit I had to look up chindogu, but it’s a fantastic term for the problem. Entrepreneurism and the startup community is concentrated in a specific location and increasingly by a closed and homogenous society. It provides solutions to problems it has. Food on demand. Wheels on demand. Weed on demand. Where’s my solution for not carrying X-Rays on demand?

Since the start of the year, with uncertainty in global markets there’s been a renewed focus on solutions and actual revenue in the startup community. Here’s hoping that this isn’t a temporary solution and my children won’t be carrying their X-Rays to their dentists while they check their 121 social networks.