Critical care physicians may benefit from immediate access to medical reference material. We evaluated the feasibility and potential benefits of a handheld computer based knowledge access system linking a central academic intensive care unit (ICU) to multiple community-based ICUs.
Four community hospital ICUs with 17 physicians participated in this prospective interventional study. Following training in the use of an internet-linked, updateable handheld computer knowledge access system, the physicians used the handheld devices in their clinical environment for a 12-month intervention period. Feasibility of the system was evaluated by tracking use of the handheld computer and by conducting surveys and focus group discussions. Before and after the intervention period, participants underwent simulated patient care scenarios designed to evaluate the information sources they accessed, as well as the speed and quality of their decision making. Participants generated admission orders during each scenario, which were scored by blinded evaluators.
Ten physicians (59%) used the system regularly, predominantly for nonmedical applications (median 32.8/month, interquartile range [IQR] 28.3–126.8), with medical software accessed less often (median 9/month, IQR 3.7–13.7). Eight out of 13 physicians (62%) who completed the final scenarios chose to use the handheld computer for information access. The median time to access information on the handheld handheld computer was 19 s (IQR 15–40 s). This group exhibited a significant improvement in admission order score as compared with those who used other resources (P = 0.018). Benefits and barriers to use of this technology were identified.
An updateable handheld computer system is feasible as a means of point-of-care access to medical reference material and may improve clinical decision making. However, during the study, acceptance of the system was variable. Improved training and new technology may overcome some of the barriers we identified.
clinical; computer; critical care; decision support systems; handheld; internet; point-of-care systems; practice guidelines; simulation
To evaluate: (1) the effectiveness of wireless handheld computers for online information retrieval in clinical settings; (2) the role of MEDLINE® in answering clinical questions raised at the point of care.
A prospective single-cohort study: accompanying medical teams on teaching rounds, five internal medicine residents used and evaluated MD on Tap, an application for handheld computers, to seek answers in real time to clinical questions arising at the point of care.
All transactions were stored by an intermediate server. Evaluators recorded clinical scenarios and questions, identified MEDLINE citations that answered the questions, and submitted daily and summative reports of their experience. A senior medical librarian corroborated the relevance of the selected citation to each scenario and question.
Evaluators answered 68% of 363 background and foreground clinical questions during rounding sessions using a variety of MD on Tap features in an average session length of less than four minutes. The evaluator, the number and quality of query terms, the total number of citations found for a query, and the use of auto-spellcheck significantly contributed to the probability of query success.
Handheld computers with Internet access are useful tools for healthcare providers to access MEDLINE in real time. MEDLINE citations can answer specific clinical questions when several medical terms are used to form a query. The MD on Tap application is an effective interface to MEDLINE in clinical settings, allowing clinicians to quickly find relevant citations.
We conducted this study to evaluate the feasibility of implementing an internet-linked handheld computer procedure logging system in a critical care training program.
Subspecialty trainees in the Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care at the University of Toronto received and were trained in the use of Palm handheld computers loaded with a customized program for logging critical care procedures. The procedures were entered into the handheld device using checkboxes and drop-down lists, and data were uploaded to a central database via the internet. To evaluate the feasibility of this system, we tracked the utilization of this data collection system. Benefits and disadvantages were assessed through surveys.
All 11 trainees successfully uploaded data to the central database, but only six (55%) continued to upload data on a regular basis. The most common reason cited for not using the system pertained to initial technical problems with data uploading. From 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, a total of 914 procedures were logged. Significant variability was noted in the number of procedures logged by individual trainees (range 13–242). The database generated by regular users provided potentially useful information to the training program director regarding the scope and location of procedural training among the different rotations and hospitals.
A handheld computer procedure logging system can be effectively used in a critical care training program. However, user acceptance was not uniform, and continued training and support are required to increase user acceptance. Such a procedure database may provide valuable information that may be used to optimize trainees' educational experience and to document clinical training experience for licensing and accreditation.
critical care; handheld computers; internet; procedure logging; training program
Computer technology from the management of individual patient medical records to the tracking of epidemiologic trends has become an essential part of all aspects of modern medicine. Consequently, computers, including bedside components, point-of-care testing equipment, and handheld computer devices, are increasingly present in patients’ rooms. Recent articles have indicated that computer hardware, just as other medical equipment, may act as a reservoir for microorganisms and contribute to the transfer of pathogens to patients. This article presents basic microbiological concepts relative to infection, reviews the present literature concerning possible links between computer contamination and nosocomial colonizations and infections, discusses basic principles for the control of contamination, and provides guidelines for reducing the risk of transfer of microorganisms to susceptible patient populations.
Although published reports describe specific handheld computer applications in medical training, we know very little yet about how, and how well, handheld computing fits into the spectrum of information resources available for patient care and physician training. This paper reports preliminary quantitative and qualitative results from an evaluation study designed to track changes in computer usage patterns and computer-related attitudes before and after introduction of handheld computing. Pre-implementation differences between residents and faculty s usage patterns are interpreted in terms of a "work role" construct. We hypothesize that over time residents and faculty will adopt, adapt, or abandon handheld computing according to how, and how well, this technology supports their successful completion of work role-related tasks. This hypothesis will be tested in the second phase of this pre- and post-implementation study.
Physicians and medical students are increasingly turning to handheld computers to serve their point-of-care information needs. Although many reference texts are available for handhelds, these references may not have all the answers a clinician needs. A complimentary source of information is a personal listing of “pearls,” small pieces of clinical information that a clinician wants to remember. We created a Palm OS pearl program to study the pearl concept, and point-of-care information retrieval by medical students and clinicians. We report on preliminary findings confirming the perceived usefulness of the pearl concept and user beliefs that it would aid in learning.
Objective: Problems involving drug knowledge are one of the most common causes of serious medication errors. Although the information that clinicians need is often available somewhere, retrieving it expeditiously has been problematic. At the same time, clinicians are faced with an ever-expanding pharmacology knowledge base. Recently, point-of-care technology has become more widely available and more practical with the advent of handheld, or palmtop, computing. Therefore, the authors evaluated the clinical contribution of a drug database developed for the handheld computer. ePocrates Rx (formerly known as qRx; ePocrates, San Carlos, California) is a comprehensive drug information guide that is downloadable free from the Internet and designed for the Palm OS platform align="right".
Design: A seven-day online survey of 3,000 randomly selected ePocrates Rx users was conducted during March 2000.
Measurements: User technology experience, product evaluation and usage patterns, and the effects of the drug reference database on information-seeking behavior, practice efficiency, decision making, and patient care.
Results: The survey response rate was 32 percent (n=946). Physicians reported that ePocrates Rx saves time during information retrieval, is easily incorporated into their usual workflow, and improves drug-related decision making. They also felt that it reduced the rate of preventable adverse drug events.
Conclusions: Self-reported perceptions by responding clinicians endorse improved access to drug information and improved practice efficiency associated with the use of handheld devices. The clinical and practical value of using these devices in clinical settings will clearly grow further as wireless communication becomes more ubiquitous and as more applications become available.
Handheld computers have potential to improve HIV/AIDS programs in healthcare settings in low-resource countries, by improving the speed and accuracy of collecting data. However, the acceptability of the technology (i.e., user attitude and reaction) is critical for its successful implementation. Acceptability is particularly critical for HIV/AIDS behavioral data, as it depends on respondents giving accurate information about a highly sensitive topic – sexual behavior.
To explore the acceptability of handheld computers for HIV/AIDS data collection and to identify potential barriers to acceptance, five focus groups of 8–10 participants each were conducted in Luanda, Angola. Facilitators presented Palm Tungsten E handhelds to the focus groups, probed participants’ perceptions of the handheld computer, and asked how they felt about disclosing intimate sexual behavior to an interviewer using a handheld computer. Discussions were conducted in Portuguese, the official language of Angola, and audio-taped. They were then transcribed and translated into English for analysis.
In total, 49 people participated in the focus groups. PDAs were understood through the lens of social and cultural beliefs. Themes that emerged were suspicion of outsiders, concern with longevity, views on progress and development, and concern about social status.
The findings from this study suggest that personal and cultural beliefs influence participant acceptance of PDAs in Angola. While PDAs provide great advantages in terms of speed and efficiency of data collection, these barriers, if left unaddressed, may lead to biased reporting of HIV/AIDS risk data. An understanding of the barriers and why they are relevant in Angola may help researchers and practitioners to reduce the impact of these barriers on HIV/AIDS data collection.
Computers; Handheld; Data Collection; HIV; Sexual Behavior; Africa South of the Sahara
We describe Apprentice, an innovative web-based patient record that combines clinical data, tools for collaborative task-management, and an integrated, interactive educational platform. The system makes this information available to providers in a handheld format to bring knowledge and education to the bedside. Apprentice is incorporated into preexisting clinical and educational computer systems within a large academic medical center.
There is growing interest in the use of technology to enhance the tracking and quality of clinical information available for patients in disaster settings. This paper describes the design and evaluation of the Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters (WIISARD).
Materials and methods
WIISARD combined advanced networking technology with electronic triage tags that reported victims' position and recorded medical information, with wireless pulse-oximeters that monitored patient vital signs, and a wireless electronic medical record (EMR) for disaster care. The EMR system included WiFi handheld devices with barcode scanners (used by front-line responders) and computer tablets with role-tailored software (used by managers of the triage, treatment, transport and medical communications teams). An additional software system provided situational awareness for the incident commander. The WIISARD system was evaluated in a large-scale simulation exercise designed for training first responders. A randomized trial was overlaid on this exercise with 100 simulated victims, 50 in a control pathway (paper-based), and 50 in completely electronic WIISARD pathway. All patients in the electronic pathway were cared for within the WIISARD system without paper-based workarounds.
WIISARD reduced the rate of the missing and/or duplicated patient identifiers (0% vs 47%, p<0.001). The total time of the field was nearly identical (38:20 vs 38:23, IQR 26:53–1:05:32 vs 18:55–57:22).
Overall, the results of WIISARD show that wireless EMR systems for care of the victims of disasters would be complex to develop but potentially feasible to build and deploy, and likely to improve the quality of information available for the delivery of care during disasters.
Electronic Health records; disasters; wireless; mobile computing
Handheld computers (PDA's, palm-tops, etc.) are increasingly popular in medicine. We analyzed a class of medical students to identify and categorize the differences between handheld computer owners vs. non-owners. Medical students were surveyed in several third year clinical rotations regarding demographics, technology use, barriers to ownership and perceived educational advantage. These data provide a profile of the typical medical handheld computer user, useful for institutions seeking to successfully integrate handheld computers into their programs.
Handheld computers have become a valuable and popular tool in various fields of medicine. A systematic review of articles was undertaken to summarize the current literature regarding the use of handheld devices in medicine. A variety of articles were identified, and relevant information for various medical fields was summarized. The literature search covered general information about handheld devices, the use of these devices to access medical literature, electronic pharmacopoeias, patient tracking, medical education, research, business management, e-prescribing, patient confidentiality, and costs as well as specialty-specific uses for personal digital assistants (PDAs).
The authors concluded that only a small number of articles provide evidence-based information about the use of PDAs in medicine. The majority of articles provide descriptive information, which is nevertheless of value. This article aims to increase the awareness among physicians about the potential roles for handheld computers in medicine and to encourage the further evaluation of their use.
This article describes techniques and strategies used to judge the potential applicability of new information management technologies in the clinical setting and to develop specific design recommendations for new features and services. We focus on a project carried out to identify the potential uses of handheld computers (i.e., the Palm Pilot or a small WinCE-based device) in the ambulatory practice setting. We found that the potential for a robust handheld computing device to positively affect the outpatient ambulatory clinical setting is enormous, and that the information derived from the exploratory research project is useful in creating specific design recommendations for further development.
The substantial growth in mobile handheld technologies has heralded the opportunity to provide physicians with access to information, resources, and people at the right time and place. But is this technology delivering the benefits to workflow and patient care promised by increased mobility? The authors conducted a systematic review to examine evidence regarding the impact of mobile handheld technology on hospital physicians' work practices and patient care, focusing on quantification of the espoused virtues of mobile technologies. The authors identified thirteen studies that demonstrated the ability of personal digital assistants (PDAs) to positively impact on areas of rapid response, error prevention, and data management and accessibility. The use of PDAs demonstrates the greatest benefits in contexts where time is a critical factor and a rapid response crucial. However, the extent to which these devices improved outcomes and workflow efficiencies because of their mobility was largely absent from the literature. The paucity of evidence calls for much needed future research that asks explicit questions about the impact the mobility of devices has on work practices and outcomes.
The aim of this study was to describe the reliability and sustainability of delirium and sedation measurements by bedside intensive care unit (ICU) nurses.
Prospective cohort study.
A tertiary care academic medical center.
510 ICU patients from 2007 to 2010. 627 bedside nurses.
Delirium and sedation levels were independently measured in routine care by bedside nurses and well-trained reference-rater research nurses. Bedside nurses were instructed to use the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit (CAM-ICU) every 12 hours and the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale (RASS) every 4 hours to measure delirium and sedation, respectively. CAM-ICU and RASS assessment agreement were computed using weighted kappa statistics across the entire population and subgroups (e.g., ICU type). Sensitivity and specificity of bedside nurse identification of delirium were calculated to understand sources of discordance.
6198 CAM-ICU and 6880 RASS measurement pairs obtained on 3846 patient-days. For CAM-ICU measurements, agreement between bedside and research nurses was substantial (weighted kappa = 0.67, 95% CI 0.66 to 0.70) and stable over 3 years of data collection. RASS measures also demonstrated substantial agreement (weighted kappa = 0.66, 95% CI 0.64 to 0.68), which was stable across all years of data collection. The sensitivity and specificity of delirium nurse assessments was 0.81 (95% CI 0.78 to 0.83) and 0.81 (95% CI 0.78 to 0.85), respectively.
Bedside nurse measurements of delirium and sedation are sustainable and reliable sources of information. These measures can be used for clinical decision making, quality improvement and measurement activities.
Delirium; Sedation; Measurement; Critical Care; Nursing
Personal digital assistant sales are growing exponentially, and as medical technology advances the amount of information available becomes staggering, making a handheld device, with the ability to store a great amount of information, progressively more valuable to health care providers. Mobile computing allows for a great deal of knowledge in a small package, creating a “walking library” with a mobile collection of data always accessible. There are many diverse types of PDAs, and this article discusses the history of PDAs, general purchasing issues, general PDA features, and the most significant differences between the Palm and the Windows CE operating systems.
Personal digital assistant; PDA; handheld computers; wireless networks
Point-of-care ultrasound (POC-US) use is increasingly common as equipment costs decrease and availability increases. Despite the utility of POC-US in trained hands, there are many situations wherein patients could benefit from the added safety of POC-US guidance, yet trained users are unavailable. We therefore hypothesized that currently available and economic ‘off-the-shelf’ technologies could facilitate remote mentoring of a nurse practitioner (NP) to assess for recurrent pneumothoraces (PTXs) after chest tube removal.
The simple remote telementored ultrasound system consisted of a handheld ultrasound machine, head-mounted video camera, microphone, and software on a laptop computer. The video output of the handheld ultrasound machine and a macroscopic view of the NP's hands were displayed to a remote trauma surgeon mentor. The mentor instructed the NP on probe position and US machine settings and provided real-time guidance and image interpretation via encrypted video conferencing software using an Internet service provider. Thirteen pleural exams after chest tube removal were conducted.
Thirteen patients (26 lung fields) were examined. The remote exam was possible in all cases with good connectivity including one trans-Atlantic interpretation. Compared to the subsequent upright chest radiograph, there were 4 true-positive remotely diagnosed PTXs, 2 false-negative diagnoses, and 20 true-negative diagnoses for 66% sensitivity, 100% specificity, and 92% accuracy for remotely guided chest examination.
Remotely guiding a NP to perform thoracic ultrasound examinations after tube thoracostomy removal can be simply and effectively performed over encrypted commercial software using low-cost hardware. As informatics constantly improves, mentored remote examinations may further empower clinical care providers in austere settings.
Pneumothorax; Remote medicine; Tele-ultrasound; Education; Global health
Objective: Despite an increasing movement toward shared decision making and the incorporation of patients' preferences into health care decision making, little research has been done on the development and evaluation of support systems that help clinicians elicit and integrate patients' preferences into patient care. This study evaluates nurses' use of choice, a handheld-computer–based support system for preference-based care planning, which assists nurses in eliciting patients' preferences for functional performance at the bedside. Specifically, it evaluates the effects of system use on nurses' care priorities, preference achievement, and patients' satisfaction.
Design: Three-group sequential design with one intervention and two control groups (N=155). In the intervention group, nurses elicited patients' preferences for functional performance with the handheld-computer–based choice application as part of their regular admission interview; preference information was added to patients' charts and used in subsequent care planning.
Results: Nurses' use of choice made nursing care more consistent with patient preferences (F=11.4; P<0.001) and improved patients' preference achievement (F=4.9; P<0.05). Furthermore, higher consistency between patients' preferences and nurses' care priorities was associated with higher preference achievement (r=0.49; P<0.001).
Conclusion: In this study, the use of a handheld-computer–based support system for preference-based care planning improved patient-centered care and patient outcomes. The technique has potential to be included in clinical practice as part of nurses' routine care planning.
Handheld computers and mobile devices provide instant access to vast amounts and types of useful information for health care professionals. Their reduced size and increased processing speed has led to rapid adoption in health care. Thus, it is important to identify whether handheld computers are actually effective in clinical practice.
A scoping review of systematic reviews was designed to provide a quick overview of the documented evidence of effectiveness for health care professionals using handheld computers in their clinical work.
A detailed search, sensitive for systematic reviews was applied for Cochrane, Medline, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED), Global Health, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) databases. All outcomes that demonstrated effectiveness in clinical practice were included. Classroom learning and patient use of handheld computers were excluded. Quality was assessed using the Assessment of Multiple Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR) tool. A previously published conceptual framework was used as the basis for dual data extraction. Reported outcomes were summarized according to the primary function of the handheld computer.
Five systematic reviews met the inclusion and quality criteria. Together, they reviewed 138 unique primary studies. Most reviewed descriptive intervention studies, where physicians, pharmacists, or medical students used personal digital assistants. Effectiveness was demonstrated across four distinct functions of handheld computers: patient documentation, patient care, information seeking, and professional work patterns. Within each of these functions, a range of positive outcomes were reported using both objective and self-report measures. The use of handheld computers improved patient documentation through more complete recording, fewer documentation errors, and increased efficiency. Handheld computers provided easy access to clinical decision support systems and patient management systems, which improved decision making for patient care. Handheld computers saved time and gave earlier access to new information. There were also reports that handheld computers enhanced work patterns and efficiency.
This scoping review summarizes the secondary evidence for effectiveness of handheld computers and mhealth. It provides a snapshot of effective use by health care professionals across four key functions. We identified evidence to suggest that handheld computers provide easy and timely access to information and enable accurate and complete documentation. Further, they can give health care professionals instant access to evidence-based decision support and patient management systems to improve clinical decision making. Finally, there is evidence that handheld computers allow health professionals to be more efficient in their work practices. It is anticipated that this evidence will guide clinicians and managers in implementing handheld computers in clinical practice and in designing future research.
handheld computers; mobile devices; mhealth; PDA; information seeking behavior; evidence-based practice; delivery of health care; clinical practice; health technology adoption; diffusion of innovation; systematic review; evidence synthesis; documentation
The goal of this study is to develop an advanced point-of-care diagnostic instrument for use in a primary care office using handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT). This system has the potential to enable earlier detection of diseases and accurate image-based diagnostics. Our system was designed to be compact, portable, user-friendly, and fast, making it well suited for the primary care office setting. The unique feature of our system is a versatile handheld OCT imaging scanner which consists of a pair of computer-controlled galvanometer-mounted mirrors, interchangeable lens mounts, and miniaturized video camera. This handheld scanner has the capability to guide the physician in real time for finding suspicious regions to be imaged by OCT. In order to evaluate the performance and use of the handheld OCT scanner, the anterior chamber of a rat eye and in vivo human retina, cornea, skin, and tympanic membrane were imaged. Based on this feasibility study, we believe that this new type of handheld OCT device and system has the potential to be an efficient point-of-care imaging tool in primary care medicine.
Handheld imaging scanner; optical coherence tomography (OCT); primary care medicine
Handheld computers for data collection (HCDC) and management have become increasingly common in health research. However, current knowledge about the use of HCDC in health research in China is very limited. In this study, we administered a survey to a hard-to-reach population in China using HCDC and assessed the acceptability and adoption of HCDC in China.
Handheld computers operating Windows Mobile and Questionnaire Development Studio (QDS) software (Nova Research Company) were used for this survey. Questions on tobacco use and susceptibility were drawn from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) and other validated instruments, and these were programmed in Chinese characters by local staff. We conducted a half-day training session for survey supervisors and a three-day training session for 20 interviewers and 9 supervisors. After the training, all trainees completed a self-assessment of their skill level using HCDC. The main study was implemented in fall 2010 in 10 sites, with data managed centrally in Beijing. Study interviewers completed a post-survey evaluation questionnaire on the acceptability and utility of HCDC in survey research.
Twenty-nine trainees completed post-training surveys, and 20 interviewers completed post-data collection questionnaires. After training, more than 90% felt confident about their ability to collect survey data using HCDC, to transfer study data from a handheld computer to a laptop, and to encrypt the survey data file. After data collection, 80% of the interviewers thought data collection and management were easy and 60% of staff felt confident they could solve problems they might encounter. Overall, after data collection, nearly 70% of interviewers reported that they would prefer to use handheld computers for future surveys. More than half (55%) felt the HCDC was a particularly useful data collection tool for studies conducted in China.
We successfully conducted a health-related survey using HCDC. Using handheld computers for data collection was a feasible, acceptable, and preferred method by Chinese interviewers. Despite minor technical issues that occurred during data collection, HCDC is a promising methodology to be used in survey-based research in China.
Surveys; Electronic data collection; Handheld computers; China
We recently proposed a new method to systematically assess the cognitive impact of knowledge resources on health professionals.
To describe promises and shortcomings of a handheld computer prototype of this method.
We developed an impact scale, and combined this scale with a Computerized Ecological Momentary Assessment technique.
We conducted a mixed methods evaluation study using a 7-item scale within a questionnaire linked to a commercial knowledge resource. Over two months of Family Medicine training, 17 residents assessed the impact of 1,981 information hits retrieved on handheld computer. From observations, log-reports, archives of hits and interviews, we examined issues associated with hardware, software and the questionnaire.
Fifteen residents found the questionnaire clearly written, and only one pointed to the questionnaire as a major reason for their low level of use of the resource. Residents reported technical problems (e.g. screen trouble) or limitations (e.g. limited tracking function) and socio-technical issues (e.g. software dependency).
Lessons from this study suggest improvements to guide future implementation of our method for assessing the cognitive impact of knowledge resources on health professionals.
Handheld electronic medical records are expected to improve physician performance and patient care. To confirm this, we performed a systematic review of the evidence assessing the effects of handheld electronic medical records on clinical care.
To conduct the systematic review, we searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane library from 1966 through September 2005. We included randomized controlled trials that evaluated effects on practitioner performance or patient outcomes of handheld electronic medical records compared to either paper medical records or desktop electronic medical records. Two reviewers independently reviewed citations, assessed full text articles and abstracted data from the studies.
Two studies met our inclusion criteria. No other randomized controlled studies or non-randomized controlled trials were found that met our inclusion criteria. Both studies were methodologically strong. The studies examined changes in documentation in orthopedic patients with handheld electronic medical records compared to paper charts, and both found an increase in documentation. Other effects noted with handheld electronic medical records were an increase in time to document and an increase in wrong or redundant diagnoses.
Handheld electronic medical records may improve documentation, but as yet, the number of studies is small and the data is restricted to one group of patients and a small group of practitioners. Further study is required to determine the benefits with handheld electronic medical records especially in assessing clinical outcomes.
To assess the impact of using wireless e-mail for clinical communication in an intensive care unit (ICU).
The authors implemented push wireless e-mail over a GSM cellular network in a 26-bed ICU during a 6-month study period. Daytime ICU staff (intensivists, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, clerical staff, and ICU leadership) used handheld devices (BlackBerry, Research in Motion, Waterloo, ON) without dedicated training. The authors recorded e-mail volume and used standard methods to develop a self-administered survey of ICU staff to measure wireless e-mail impact.
The survey assessed perceived impact of wireless e-mail on communication, team relationships, staff satisfaction and patient care. Answers were recorded on a 7-point Likert scale; favorable responses were categorized as Likert responses 5, 6, and 7.
Staff sent 5.2 (1.9) and received 8.9 (2.1) messages (mean [SD]) per day during 5 months of the 6-month study period; usage decreased after study completion. Most (106/125 [85%]) staff completed the questionnaire. The majority reported that wireless e-mail improved speed (92%) and reliability (92%) of communication, improved coordination of ICU team members (88%), reduced staff frustration (75%), and resulted in faster (90%) and safer (75%) patient care; Likert responses were significantly different from neutral (p < 0.001 for all). Staff infrequently (18%) reported negative effects on communication. There were no reports of radiofrequency interference with medical devices.
Interdisciplinary ICU staff perceived wireless e-mail to improve communication, team relationships, staff satisfaction, and patient care. Further research should address the impact of wireless e-mail on efficiency and timeliness of staff workflow and clinical outcomes.
Clinicians are increasingly using handheld computers (HC) during patient care. We sought to assess the role of HC-based clinical reference software in medical practice by conducting a survey and assessing actual usage behavior.
During a 2-week period in February 2005, 3600 users of a HC-based clinical reference application were asked by e-mail to complete a survey and permit analysis of their usage patterns. The software includes a pharmacopeia, an infectious disease reference, a medical diagnostic and therapeutic reference and transmits medical alerts and other notifications during HC synchronizations. Software usage data were captured during HC synchronization for the 4 weeks prior to survey completion.
Survey responses and software usage data.
The survey response rate was 42% (n = 1501). Physicians reported using the clinical reference software for a mean of 4 years and 39% reported using the software during more than half of patient encounters. Physicians who synchronized their HC during the data collection period (n = 1249; 83%) used the pharmacopeia for unique drug lookups a mean of 6.3 times per day (SD 12.4). The majority of users (61%) believed that in the prior 4 weeks, use of the clinical reference prevented adverse drug events or medication errors 3 or more times. Physicians also believed that alerts and other notifications improved patient care if they were public health warnings (e.g. about influenza), new immunization guidelines or drug alert warnings (e.g. rofecoxib withdrawal).
Current adopters of HC-based medical references use these tools frequently, and found them to improve patient care and be valuable in learning of recent alerts and warnings.