Finally, there’s a new version of software for you, a provider, payer, vendor or clearinghouse dealing with healthcare records such as ICD-10. New codes that you had been keying in every time are now part of the dropdown menu. Other annoyances you’ve been grumbling about have also been reported fixed. As much as you’d like to plug it in and hope it works, you have concerns. Will it break a crucial function that used to be fine? Will the old functionality still work for us?
Manual regression testing can take a month or longer, by which time we’ll be sunk if the new system does not work. What we need is a shorter test cycle so that we can know that the basic functionality is still there, and that there are no performance issues that cause the system to work but seem to hang because they take too long to process (SQL query being scary). So we can say “Yes” or “No” to the new release. We know from experience that our 2 questions are always “Can we do what we want to do?” and “How long will it take?” Either it helps us, or it kills us. And as a healthcare professional, I don’t know which one it is, or how long it will take to diagnose this patient.
With a little programming experience (OK, maybe a little more than a little), it is possible to build automation test cases. Automation testing solution has the benefit that if you have a test procedure with big variables or lots of variables, it does not cause pain (thank you Hippocratic Oath!) by adding days or even weeks to your testing. The variable parameters can be generated from the test procedures to produce many test cases, and these test cases can be run overnight, without causing testers to spend many hours trying to survive the monotony of basically doing the same test many times in a row with minor differences. Why not be many times more productive by writing once and letting it execute many times? The test procedures need human time to be written anyways. Why not ensure that they get run precisely and quickly? It is a lot quicker this way, and people don’t need to be tied up with the nasty business of manual testing.
Of course, it is always fun to throw some exploratory testing in too, just to see how things work and see how the new stuff works with your own eyes. Get your hands a little wet, know what the real deal is. And to make sure that the other new stuff is as it has been described, because sometimes the documentation is wrong (or the documentation is right, but the implementation is different – but the tech writer was never told about the update). And once you see the actual features (compared to just what they are rumored to be) then you can automate the testing of those parts too.
Without automation testing, you are stuck in an isolation ward, effectively quarantined until it can be determined if the new build is healthy or diseased. You don’t want to be stuck in isolation for a long time. Automation is the course of treatment you need. I’m not someone playing a doctor on TV. I’m someone who knows the daily grind of testing software for a living, experienced at deciding if a release is worth using or buggy beyond belief. Hey, we all diagnose what we encounter and prescribe a course of treatments in our own way, right? I just want to advise you what you need for your psychological health, and the health of your medical department too. Trust the instruments you have at your disposal – they are quicker and more accurate than you are, and they don’t mind working nights after you’ve put in a shift or two.
Scott Andery is an expert marketer, author and consultant who specialize in software testing tools and resources.