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1.  Evidence of Effectiveness of Health Care Professionals Using Handheld Computers: A Scoping Review of Systematic Reviews 
Background
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.
Objective
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2530
PMCID: PMC3841346  PMID: 24165786
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
2.  Use of Handheld Computers in Medical Education 
BACKGROUND
Over the past decade, handheld computers (or personal digital assistants [PDAs]) have become a popular tool among medical trainees and physicians. Few comprehensive reviews of PDA use in medicine have been published.
OBJECTIVE
We systematically reviewed the literature to (1) describe medical trainees' use of PDAs for education or patient care, (2) catalog popular software applications, and (3) evaluate the impact of PDA use on patient care.
DATA SOURCES
MEDLINE (1993 to 2004), medical education-related conference proceedings, and hand search of article bibliographies.
REVIEW METHODS
We identified articles and abstracts that described the use of PDAs in medical education by trainees or educators. Reports presenting a qualitative or quantitative evaluation were included.
RESULTS
Sixty-seven studies met inclusion criteria. Approximately 60% to 70% of medical students and residents use PDAs for educational purposes or patient care. Satisfaction was generally high and correlated with the level of handheld computer experience. Most of the studies included described PDA use for patient tracking and documentation. By contrast, trainees rated medical textbooks, medication references, and medical calculators as the most useful applications. Only 1 randomized trial with educational outcomes was found, demonstrating improved learning and application of evidence-based medicine with use of PDA-based decision support software. No articles reported the impact of PDA use on patient outcomes.
CONCLUSION
Most medical trainees find handhelds useful in their medical education and patient care. Further studies are needed to evaluate how PDAs impact learning and clinical outcomes.
doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2006.00444.x
PMCID: PMC1484794  PMID: 16704405
handhelds; personal digital assistants (PDAs); medical trainees; medical education
3.  Handheld Computer Use in U.S. Family Practice Residency Programs 
Objective: The purpose of the study was to evaluate the uses of handheld computers (also called personal digital assistants, or PDAs) in family practice residency programs in the United States.
Study Design: In November 2000, the authors mailed a questionnaire to the program directors of all American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and American College of Osteopathic Family Practice (ACOFP) residency programs in the United States.
Measurements: Data and patterns of the use and non-use of handheld computers were identified.
Results: Approximately 50 percent (306 of 610) of the programs responded to the survey. Two thirds of the programs reported that handheld computers were used in their residencies, and an additional 14 percent had plans for implementation within 24 months. Both the Palm and the Windows CE operating systems were used, with the Palm operating system the most common. Military programs had the highest rate of use (8 of 10 programs, 80 percent), and osteopathic programs had the lowest (23 of 55 programs, 42 percent). Of programs that reported handheld computer use, 45 percent had required handheld computer applications that are used uniformly by all users. Funding for handheld computers and related applications was non-budgeted in 76percent of the programs in which handheld computers were used. In programs providing a budget for handheld computers, the average annual budget per user was $461.58. Interested faculty or residents, rather than computer information services personnel, performed upkeep and maintenance of handheld computers in 72 percent of the programs in which the computers are used. In addition to the installed calendar, memo pad, and address book, the most common clinical uses of handheld computers in the programs were as medication reference tools, electronic textbooks, and clinical computational or calculator-type programs.
Conclusions: Handheld computers are widely used in family practice residency programs in the United States. Although handheld computers were designed as electronic organizers, in family practice residencies they are used as medication reference tools, electronic textbooks, and clinical computational programs and to track activities that were previously associated with desktop database applications.
PMCID: PMC349390  PMID: 11751806
4.  Airway Clearance Devices for Cystic Fibrosis 
Executive Summary
Objective
The purpose of this evidence-based analysis is to examine the safety and efficacy of airway clearance devices (ACDs) for cystic fibrosis and attempt to differentiate between devices, where possible, on grounds of clinical efficacy, quality of life, safety and/or patient preference.
Background
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a common, inherited, life-limiting disease that affects multiple systems of the human body. Respiratory dysfunction is the primary complication and leading cause of death due to CF. CF causes abnormal mucus secretion in the airways, leading to airway obstruction and mucus plugging, which in turn can lead to bacterial infection and further mucous production. Over time, this almost cyclical process contributes to severe airway damage and loss of respiratory function. Removal of airway secretions, termed airway clearance, is thus an integral component of the management of CF.
A variety of methods are available for airway clearance, some requiring mechanical devices, others physical manipulation of the body (e.g. physiotherapy). Conventional chest physiotherapy (CCPT), through the assistance of a caregiver, is the current standard of care for achieving airway clearance, particularly in young patients up to the ages of six or seven. CF patients are, however, living much longer now than in decades past. The median age of survival in Canada has risen to 37.0 years for the period of 1998-2002 (5-year window), up from 22.8 years for the 5-year window ending in 1977. The prevalence has also risen accordingly, last recorded as 3,453 in Canada in 2002, up from 1,630 in 1977. With individuals living longer, there is a greater need for independent methods of airway clearance.
Airway Clearance Devices
There are at least three classes of airway clearance devices: positive expiratory pressure devices (PEP), airway oscillating devices (AOD; either handheld or stationary) and high frequency chest compression (HFCC)/mechanical percussion (MP) devices. Within these classes are numerous different brands of devices from various manufacturers, each with subtle iterations. At least 10 devices are licensed by Health Canada (ranging from Class 1 to Class 3 devices).
Evidence-Based Analysis of Effectiveness
Research Questions
Does long-term use of ACDs improve outcomes of interest in comparison to CCPT in patients with CF?
Does long-term use of one class of ACD improve outcomes of interest in comparison to another class of ACD in CF patients?
Literature Search
A comprehensive literature search was performed on March 7, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1950 to March 7, 2009.
Inclusion Criteria
All randomized controlled trials including those of parallel and crossover design,
Systematic reviews and/or meta-analyses. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses
Exclusion Criteria
Abstracts were generally excluded because their methods could not be examined; however, abstract data was included in several Cochrane meta-analyses presented in this paper;
Studies of less than seven days duration (including single treatment studies);
Studies that did not report primary outcomes;
Studies in which less than 10 patients completed the study.
Outcomes of Interest
Primary outcomes under review were percent-predicted forced expiratory volume (FEV-1), forced vital capacity (FVC), and forced expiratory flow between 25%-75% (FEF25-75). Secondary outcomes included number of hospitalizations, adherence, patient preference, quality of life and adverse events. All outcomes were decided a priori.
Summary of Findings
Literature searching and back-searching identified 13 RCTs meeting the inclusion criteria, along with three Cochrane systematic reviews. The Cochrane reviews were identified in preliminary searching and used as the basis for formulating this review. Results were subgrouped by comparison and according to the available literature. For example, results from Cochrane meta-analyses included abstract data and therefore, additional meta-analyses were also performed on trials reported as full publications only (MAS generally excludes abstracted data when full publications are available as the methodological quality of trials reported in abstract cannot be properly assessed).
Executive Summary Table 1 summarizes the results across all comparisons and subgroupings for primary outcomes of pulmonary function. Only two comparisons yielded evidence of moderate or high quality according to GRADE criteria–the comparisons of CCPT vs. PEP and handheld AOD vs. PEP–but only the comparison of CCPT vs. PEP noted a significant difference between treatment groups. In comparison to CCPT, there was a significant difference in favour of PEP for % predicted FEV-1 and FVC according to one long-term, parallel RCT. This trial was accepted as the best available evidence for the comparison. The body of evidence for the remaining comparisons was low to very low, according to GRADE criteria, being downgraded most often because of poor methodological quality and low generalizability. Specifically, trials were likely not adequately powered (low sample sizes), did not conduct intention-to-treat analyses, were conducted primarily in children and young adolescents, and outdated (conducted more than 10 years ago).
Secondary outcomes were poorly or inconsistently reported, and were generally not of value to decision-making. Of note, there were a significantly higher number of hospitalizations among participants undergoing AOD therapy in comparison to PEP therapy.
Summarization of results for primary outcomes by comparison and subgroupings
Bolding indicates significant difference
Positive summary statistics favour the former intervention
Abbreviations: AOD, airway oscillating device; CCPT, conventional chest physiotherapy; CI, confidence interval; HFCC, high frequency chest compression; MP, mechanical percussion; N/A: not applicable; PEP, positive expiratory pressure
Economic Analysis
Devices ranged in cost from around $60 for PEP and handheld AODs to upwards of $18,000 for a HFCC vest device. Although the majority of device costs are paid out-of-pocket by the patients themselves, their parents, or covered by third-party medical insurance, Ontario did provide funding assistance through the Assistive Devices Program (ADP) for postural drainage boards and MP devices. These technologies, however, are either obsolete or their clinical efficacy is not supported by evidence. ADP provided roughly $16,000 in funding for the 2008/09 fiscal year. Using device costs and prevalent and incident cases of CF in Ontario, budget impact projections were generated for Ontario. Prevalence of CF in Ontario for patients from ages 6 to 71 was cited as 1,047 cases in 2002 while incidence was estimated at 46 new cases of CF diagnosed per year in 2002. Budget impact projections indicated that PEP and handheld AODs were highly economically feasible costing around $90,000 for the entire prevalent population and less than $3,000 per year to cover new incident cases. HFCC vest devices were by far the most expensive, costing in excess of $19 million to cover the prevalent population alone.
Conclusions
There is currently a lack of sufficiently powered, long-term, parallel randomized controlled trials investigating the use of ACDs in comparison to other airway clearance techniques. While much of the current evidence suggests no significant difference between various ACDs and alternative therapies/technologies, at least according to outcomes of pulmonary function, there is a strong possibility that past trials were not sufficiently powered to identify a difference. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that there will be any future trials comparing ACDs to CCPT as withholding therapy using an ACD may be seen as unethical at present.
Conclusions of clinical effectiveness are as follows:
Moderate quality evidence suggests that PEP is at least as effective as or more effective than CCPT, according to primary outcomes of pulmonary function.
Moderate quality evidence suggests that there is no significant difference between PEP and handheld AODs, according to primary outcomes of pulmonary function; however, secondary outcomes may favour PEP.
Low quality evidence suggests that there is no significant difference between AODs or HFCC/MP and CCPT, according to both primary and secondary outcomes.
Very low quality evidence suggests that there is no significant difference between handheld AOD and CCPT, according to primary outcomes of pulmonary function.
Budget impact projections show PEP and handheld AODs to be highly economically feasible.
PMCID: PMC3377547  PMID: 23074531
5.  Image Quality Characteristics of Handheld Display Devices for Medical Imaging 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e79243.
Handheld devices such as mobile phones and tablet computers have become widespread with thousands of available software applications. Recently, handhelds are being proposed as part of medical imaging solutions, especially in emergency medicine, where immediate consultation is required. However, handheld devices differ significantly from medical workstation displays in terms of display characteristics. Moreover, the characteristics vary significantly among device types. We investigate the image quality characteristics of various handheld devices with respect to luminance response, spatial resolution, spatial noise, and reflectance. We show that the luminance characteristics of the handheld displays are different from those of workstation displays complying with grayscale standard target response suggesting that luminance calibration might be needed. Our results also demonstrate that the spatial characteristics of handhelds can surpass those of medical workstation displays particularly for recent generation devices. While a 5 mega-pixel monochrome workstation display has horizontal and vertical modulation transfer factors of 0.52 and 0.47 at the Nyquist frequency, the handheld displays released after 2011 can have values higher than 0.63 at the respective Nyquist frequencies. The noise power spectra for workstation displays are higher than 1.2×10−5 mm2 at 1 mm−1, while handheld displays have values lower than 3.7×10−6 mm2. Reflectance measurements on some of the handheld displays are consistent with measurements for workstation displays with, in some cases, low specular and diffuse reflectance coefficients. The variability of the characterization results among devices due to the different technological features indicates that image quality varies greatly among handheld display devices.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079243
PMCID: PMC3827384  PMID: 24236113
6.  Linking the global positioning system (GPS) to a personal digital assistant (PDA) to support tuberculosis control in South Africa: a pilot study 
Background
Tuberculosis (TB) is the leading clinical manifestation of HIV infection and caseloads continue to increase in high HIV prevalence settings. TB treatment is prolonged and treatment interruption has serious individual and public health consequences. We assessed the feasibility of using a handheld computing device programmed with customised software and linked to a GPS receiver, to assist TB control programmes to trace patients who interrupt treatment in areas without useful street maps. In this proof of concept study, we compared the time taken to re-find a home comparing given residential addresses with a customised personalised digital assistant linked to a global positioning system (PDA/GPS) device. Additionally, we assessed the feasibility of using aerial photographs to locate homes.
Results
The study took place in two communities in Greater Johannesburg, South Africa: Wheillers Farm, a relatively sparsely populated informal settlement, and a portion of Alexandra, an urban township with densely populated informal settlements. Ten participants in each community were asked to locate their homes on aerial photographs. Nine from Wheillers Farm and six from Alexandra were able to identify their homes. The total time taken by a research assistant, unfamiliar with the area, to locate 10 homes in each community using the given addresses was compared with the total time taken by a community volunteer with half an hour of training to locate the same homes using the device. Time taken to locate the ten households was reduced by 20% and 50% in each community respectively using the PDA/GPS device.
Conclusion
In this pilot study we show that it is feasible to use a simple PDA/GPS device to locate the homes of patients. We found that in densely populated informal settlements, GPS technology is more accurate than aerial photos in identifying homes and more efficient than addresses provided by participants. Research assessing issues of, confidentiality and cost effectiveness would have to be undertaken before implementing PDA/GPS – based technology for this application. However, this PDA/GPS device could be used to reduce part of the burden on TB control programs.
doi:10.1186/1476-072X-5-34
PMCID: PMC1563457  PMID: 16911806
7.  Prospective evaluation of an internet-linked handheld computer critical care knowledge access system 
Critical Care  2004;8(6):R414-R421.
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/cc2967
PMCID: PMC1065064  PMID: 15566586
clinical; computer; critical care; decision support systems; handheld; internet; point-of-care systems; practice guidelines; simulation
8.  The effectiveness of M-health technologies for improving health and health services: a systematic review protocol 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:250.
Background
The application of mobile computing and communication technology is rapidly expanding in the fields of health care and public health. This systematic review will summarise the evidence for the effectiveness of mobile technology interventions for improving health and health service outcomes (M-health) around the world.
Findings
To be included in the review interventions must aim to improve or promote health or health service use and quality, employing any mobile computing and communication technology. This includes: (1) interventions designed to improve diagnosis, investigation, treatment, monitoring and management of disease; (2) interventions to deliver treatment or disease management programmes to patients, health promotion interventions, and interventions designed to improve treatment compliance; and (3) interventions to improve health care processes e.g. appointment attendance, result notification, vaccination reminders.
A comprehensive, electronic search strategy will be used to identify controlled studies, published since 1990, and indexed in MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Global Health, Web of Science, the Cochrane Library, or the UK NHS Health Technology Assessment database. The search strategy will include terms (and synonyms) for the following mobile electronic devices (MEDs) and a range of compatible media: mobile phone; personal digital assistant (PDA); handheld computer (e.g. tablet PC); PDA phone (e.g. BlackBerry, Palm Pilot); Smartphone; enterprise digital assistant; portable media player (i.e. MP3 or MP4 player); handheld video game console. No terms for health or health service outcomes will be included, to ensure that all applications of mobile technology in public health and health services are identified. Bibliographies of primary studies and review articles meeting the inclusion criteria will be searched manually to identify further eligible studies. Data on objective and self-reported outcomes and study quality will be independently extracted by two review authors. Where there are sufficient numbers of similar interventions, we will calculate and report pooled risk ratios or standardised mean differences using meta-analysis.
Discussion
This systematic review will provide recommendations on the use of mobile computing and communication technology in health care and public health and will guide future work on intervention development and primary research in this field.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-3-250
PMCID: PMC2976743  PMID: 20925916
9.  Hand-held Computer Use in Third-year Medical Clerkships 
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.
PMCID: PMC2243663
10.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Conclusions
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001561.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001561
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
11.  Personal Digital Assistants 
Journal of Digital Imaging  2004;17(1):5-17.
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.
doi:10.1007/s10278-003-1665-8
PMCID: PMC3043961  PMID: 15255514
Personal digital assistant; PDA; handheld computers; wireless networks
12.  Development and Testing of a Scale to Assess Physician Attitudes about Handheld Computers with Decision Support 
Objective
The authors developed and evaluated a rating scale, the Attitudes toward Handheld Decision Support Software Scale (H-DSS), to assess physician attitudes about handheld decision support systems.
Design
The authors conducted a prospective assessment of psychometric characteristics of the H-DSS including reliability, validity, and responsiveness. Participants were 82 Internal Medicine residents. A higher score on each of the 14 five-point Likert scale items reflected a more positive attitude about handheld DSS. The H-DSS score is the mean across the fourteen items. Attitudes toward the use of the handheld DSS were assessed prior to and six months after receiving the handheld device.
Statistics
Cronbach's Alpha was used to assess internal consistency reliability. Pearson correlations were used to estimate and detect significant associations between scale scores and other measures (validity). Paired sample t-tests were used to test for changes in the mean attitude scale score (responsiveness) and for differences between groups.
Results
Internal consistency reliability for the scale was α = 0.73. In testing validity, moderate correlations were noted between the attitude scale scores and self-reported Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) usage in the hospital (correlation coefficient = 0.55) and clinic (0.48), p < 0.05 for both. The scale was responsive, in that it detected the expected increase in scores between the two administrations (3.99 (s.d. = 0.35) vs. 4.08, (s.d. = 0.34), p < 0.005).
Conclusion
The authors' evaluation showed that the H-DSS scale was reliable, valid, and responsive. The scale can be used to guide future handheld DSS development and implementation.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M2096
PMCID: PMC1561800  PMID: 16799120
13.  A Systematic Review of Healthcare Applications for Smartphones 
Background
Advanced mobile communications and portable computation are now combined in handheld devices called “smartphones”, which are also capable of running third-party software. The number of smartphone users is growing rapidly, including among healthcare professionals. The purpose of this study was to classify smartphone-based healthcare technologies as discussed in academic literature according to their functionalities, and summarize articles in each category.
Methods
In April 2011, MEDLINE was searched to identify articles that discussed the design, development, evaluation, or use of smartphone-based software for healthcare professionals, medical or nursing students, or patients. A total of 55 articles discussing 83 applications were selected for this study from 2,894 articles initially obtained from the MEDLINE searches.
Results
A total of 83 applications were documented: 57 applications for healthcare professionals focusing on disease diagnosis (21), drug reference (6), medical calculators (8), literature search (6), clinical communication (3), Hospital Information System (HIS) client applications (4), medical training (2) and general healthcare applications (7); 11 applications for medical or nursing students focusing on medical education; and 15 applications for patients focusing on disease management with chronic illness (6), ENT-related (4), fall-related (3), and two other conditions (2). The disease diagnosis, drug reference, and medical calculator applications were reported as most useful by healthcare professionals and medical or nursing students.
Conclusions
Many medical applications for smartphones have been developed and widely used by health professionals and patients. The use of smartphones is getting more attention in healthcare day by day. Medical applications make smartphones useful tools in the practice of evidence-based medicine at the point of care, in addition to their use in mobile clinical communication. Also, smartphones can play a very important role in patient education, disease self-management, and remote monitoring of patients.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-12-67
PMCID: PMC3534499  PMID: 22781312
14.  The Impact of Mobile Handheld Technology on Hospital Physicians' Work Practices and Patient Care: A Systematic Review 
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.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M3215
PMCID: PMC3002124  PMID: 19717793
15.  Barriers to Acceptance of Personal Digital Assistants for HIV/AIDS Data Collection in Angola 
Purpose
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2011.04.004
PMCID: PMC3152252  PMID: 21622022
Computers; Handheld; Data Collection; HIV; Sexual Behavior; Africa South of the Sahara
16.  Doctors' experience with handheld computers in clinical practice: qualitative study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2004;328(7449):1162.
Objective To examine doctors' perspectives about their experiences with handheld computers in clinical practice.
Design Qualitative study of eight focus groups consisting of doctors with diverse training and practice patterns.
Setting Six practice settings across the United States and two additional focus group sessions held at a national meeting of general internists.
Participants 54 doctors who did or did not use handheld computers.
Results Doctors who used handheld computers in clinical practice seemed generally satisfied with them and reported diverse patterns of use. Users perceived that the devices helped them increase productivity and improve patient care. Barriers to use concerned the device itself and personal and perceptual constraints, with perceptual factors such as comfort with technology, preference for paper, and the impression that the devices are not easy to use somewhat difficult to overcome. Participants suggested that organisations can help promote handheld computers by providing advice on purchase, usage, training, and user support. Participants expressed concern about reliability and security of the device but were particularly concerned about dependency on the device and over-reliance as a substitute for clinical thinking.
Conclusions Doctors expect handheld computers to become more useful, and most seem interested in leveraging (getting the most value from) their use. Key opportunities with handheld computers included their use as a stepping stone to build doctors' comfort with other information technology and ehealth initiatives and providing point of care support that helps improve patient care.
PMCID: PMC411090  PMID: 15142920
17.  Handheld computers in critical care 
Critical Care  2001;5(4):227-231.
Background
Computing technology has the potential to improve health care management but is often underutilized. Handheld computers are versatile and relatively inexpensive, bringing the benefits of computers to the bedside. We evaluated the role of this technology for managing patient data and accessing medical reference information, in an academic intensive-care unit (ICU).
Methods
Palm III series handheld devices were given to the ICU team, each installed with medical reference information, schedules, and contact numbers. Users underwent a 1-hour training session introducing the hardware and software. Various patient data management applications were assessed during the study period. Qualitative assessment of the benefits, drawbacks, and suggestions was performed by an independent company, using focus groups. An objective comparison between a paper and electronic handheld textbook was achieved using clinical scenario tests.
Results
During the 6-month study period, the 20 physicians and 6 paramedical staff who used the handheld devices found them convenient and functional but suggested more comprehensive training and improved search facilities. Comparison of the handheld computer with the conventional paper text revealed equivalence. Access to computerized patient information improved communication, particularly with regard to long-stay patients, but changes to the software and the process were suggested.
Conclusions
The introduction of this technology was well received despite differences in users' familiarity with the devices. Handheld computers have potential in the ICU, but systems need to be developed specifically for the critical-care environment.
PMCID: PMC37409  PMID: 11511337
computer communication networks; medical informatics; medical technology; microcomputers; point-of-care technology
18.  Replacing paper data collection forms with electronic data entry in the field: findings from a study of community-acquired bloodstream infections in Pemba, Zanzibar 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:113.
Background
Entering data on case report forms and subsequently digitizing them in electronic media is the traditional way to maintain a record keeping system in field studies. Direct data entry using an electronic device avoids this two-step process. It is gaining in popularity and has replaced the paper-based data entry system in many studies. We report our experiences with paper- and PDA-based data collection during a fever surveillance study in Pemba Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania.
Methods
Data were collected on a 14-page case report paper form in the first period of the study. The case report paper forms were then replaced with handheld computers (personal digital assistants or PDAs). The PDAs were used for screening and clinical data collection, including a rapid assessment of patient eligibility, real time errors, and inconsistency checking.
Results
A comparison of paper-based data collection with PDA data collection showed that direct data entry via PDA was faster and 25% cheaper. Data was more accurate (7% versus 1% erroneous data) and omission did not occur with electronic data collection. Delayed data turnaround times and late error detections in the paper-based system which made error corrections difficult were avoided using electronic data collection.
Conclusions
Electronic data collection offers direct data entry at the initial point of contact. It has numerous advantages and has the potential to replace paper-based data collection in the field. The availability of information and communication technologies for direct data transfer has the potential to improve the conduct of public health research in resource-poor settings.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-113
PMCID: PMC3392743  PMID: 22353420
Bacteraemia; Handheld computers; Personal digital assistants
19.  Understanding usage patterns of handheld computers in clinical practice. 
Handheld computers are commonly used in clinical practice and often considered invaluable by physicians. Though full of promise, the technology is still costly and literature assessing its real use in clinical practice remains scarce. In an effort to better understand how Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) can be utilized as clinical tools, we designed a study that closely monitored the use of a selection of handheld applications by a cohort of interns in a service of Internal Medicine. Information gathered about actual use of the mobile applications offer valuable insights on usage patterns of tools that promise to be become an important part of our clinical practice in the years to come, and will hopefully help guide future developments.
PMCID: PMC2244170  PMID: 12463936
20.  Who’s Using PDAs? Estimates of PDA Use by Health Care Providers: A Systematic Review of Surveys 
Background
Personal digital assistants (PDAs) find many uses in health care. Knowing rates of collective PDA use among health care providers is an important guiding step to further understanding those health care contexts that are most suited to PDA use and whether PDAs provide improved health outcomes.
Objectives
The objectives of this study were to estimate current and future PDA use among health care providers and to discuss possible implications of that use on choice of technology in clinical practice and research.
Methods
This study was a systematic review of PDA usage surveys. Surveys were identified as part of an ongoing systematic review on the use of handheld devices. Reports from eight databases covering both biomedical sciences and engineering (1993-2006) were screened against distinct eligibility criteria. Data from included surveys were extracted and verified in a standardized way and were assessed descriptively.
Results
We identified 23 relevant surveys, 15 of which were derived from peer-reviewed journals. This cohort of surveys was published between 2000 and 2005. Overall, since 1999, there is clear evidence of an increasing trend in PDA use. The current overall adoption rate for individual professional use ranges between 45% and 85%, indicating high but somewhat variable adoption, primarily among physicians.
Conclusions
Younger physicians and residents and those working in large and hospital-based practices are more likely to use a PDA. The adoption rate is now at its highest rate of increase according to a commonly accepted diffusion of innovations model. A common problem with the evaluation of information technology is that use frequently precedes research. This is the case here, in which PDA adoption rates are already high and projections are for rapid growth in the short term. In general, it appears that professional PDA use in health care settings involves more administrative and organizational tasks than those related to patient care, perhaps signaling where the growth in adoption is most likely to occur. We conclude that physicians are likely accustomed to using a PDA, and, therefore, technology expertise will probably not be a barrier to implementing PDA applications. However, there is an urgent need to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of specific tasks using handheld technology to inform those developing and those using PDA applications.
doi:10.2196/jmir.8.2.e7
PMCID: PMC1550702  PMID: 16867970
Personal digital assistant; systematic review; survey; health care; health technology adoption
21.  How Does Medical Device Regulation Perform in the United States and the European Union? A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(7):e1001276.
Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues conduct a systematic review to examine the strengths and weaknesses associated with approaches to medical device regulation in the US and EU.
Background
Policymakers and regulators in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) are weighing reforms to their medical device approval and post-market surveillance systems. Data may be available that identify strengths and weakness of the approaches to medical device regulation in these settings.
Methods and Findings
We performed a systematic review to find empirical studies evaluating medical device regulation in the US or EU. We searched Medline using two nested categories that included medical devices and glossary terms attributable to the US Food and Drug Administration and the EU, following PRISMA guidelines for systematic reviews. We supplemented this search with a review of the US Government Accountability Office online database for reports on US Food and Drug Administration device regulation, consultations with local experts in the field, manual reference mining of selected articles, and Google searches using the same key terms used in the Medline search. We found studies of premarket evaluation and timing (n = 9), studies of device recalls (n = 8), and surveys of device manufacturers (n = 3). These studies provide evidence of quality problems in pre-market submissions in the US, provide conflicting views of device safety based largely on recall data, and relay perceptions of some industry leaders from self-surveys.
Conclusions
Few studies have quantitatively assessed medical device regulation in either the US or EU. Existing studies of US and EU device approval and post-market evaluation performance suggest that policy reforms are necessary for both systems, including improving classification of devices in the US and promoting transparency and post-market oversight in the EU. Assessment of regulatory performance in both settings is limited by lack of data on post-approval safety outcomes. Changes to these device approval and post-marketing systems must be accompanied by ongoing research to ensure that there is better assessment of what works in either setting.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Background
Medical devices—health technologies that are not medicines, vaccines, or clinical procedures—cover a vast range of equipment from the simple to the more complex. Medical devices are essential for patient care, and in the past decade, new devices have offered improved treatment alternatives for many diseases and conditions, leading to substantial growth in the US$350 billion medical device industry. However, new medical devices also pose substantial risks to patients, as shown in recent high-profile product recalls involving breast implants and artificial hip implants.
Why Was This Study Done?
Concerns about the safety of new medical devices have led to calls for greater testing of the safety and effectiveness of new devices before they come on the market and for improved monitoring of their performance after new devices have been approved for use by a regulatory body. In this study, the researchers systematically reviewed evidence about the performance of medical device approval and post-market surveillance systems in two of the most important world markets for medical devices—the United States and the European Union.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers performed a keyword search in Medline (a database of published biomedical literature) for all relevant articles, and supplemented this search with a review of reports on Food and Drug Administration (FDA) device regulation in the US Government Accountability Office's online database. Then they consulted with both US and EU experts and also conducted Google searches to capture reports by management consultant firms. The researchers included only those studies that reported empirical data, either qualitative or quantitative, about the characteristics, performance metrics, or effectiveness of device evaluation or post-market oversight in the US or EU.
Using these methods the researchers identified nine studies that focused on pre-market evaluation and timing, eight studies of device recalls, and three surveys of device manufacturers. Because of the variable quality and lack of outcomes from these studies and reports, the researchers concluded that these studies offered only limited insights into either the US or EU systems. But the available evidence does suggest that in the US, the FDA could improve oversight of device approval, for example, by following up on its commitment to reclassify high-risk medical devices and improve post-market surveillance of devices that are approved on the basis of limited data. The researchers also suggest that using recalls to measure the safety record of individual devices or classes of devices is flawed, as particular devices may be over- or underrepresented in recall data depending on the frequency of their use, design complexity, and the clinical manifestations of malfunction. In the EU, apart from a few studies addressing the timing of approval, the researchers found almost no robust data on device regulation. Some case reports suggested substantial dangers to patients in the EU from devices approved on the basis of limited data, but the researchers could not systematically compare the quality of studies used for device approval or post-approval safety outcomes between the EU and US, mainly because of the lack of transparency among the EU regulators (Notified Bodies).
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that few studies have quantitatively assessed medical device regulation in either the US or EU, but the existing studies examined in this review suggest that policy reforms are necessary for both device approval and post-market evaluation of performance, including improving classification of devices in the US and promoting transparency and postmarket oversight in the EU. However, assessment of regulatory performance in both the US and EU is limited by lack of data on post-approval safety outcomes. Any changes to medical device approval and post-marketing systems should be accompanied by ongoing research and evaluation to ensure that there is an improved assessment of what works in either setting.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001276.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Sanket Dhruva and Rita Redberg
The WHO website has a comprehensive topic section on medical devices
Information on medical devices is also available from the FDA and the European Commission
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001276
PMCID: PMC3418047  PMID: 22912563
22.  Basic Microbiologic and Infection Control Information to Reduce the Potential Transmission of Pathogens to Patients via Computer Hardware 
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.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M1082
PMCID: PMC346637  PMID: 12223502
23.  The diagnostic efficacy of hand-held devices for emergency radiological consultation 
Objective
Orthopedic injury and intracranial hemorrhage are commonly encountered in emergency radiology, and accurate and timely diagnosis is important. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the diagnostic accuracy of handheld computing devices is comparable to that of monitors that might be used in emergency teleconsultation.
Materials and Methods
Two handheld devices, a Dell Axim personal digital assistant (PDA) and an Apple iPod Touch device, were studied. The diagnostic efficacy of each device was tested against that of secondary-class monitors (primary class being clinical workstation display) for each of two image types—posteroanterior wrist radiographs and slices from CT of the brain—yielding four separate observer performance studies. Participants read a bank of 30 wrist or brain images searching for a specific abnormality (distal radial fracture, fresh intracranial bleed) and rated their confidence in their decisions. A total of 168 readings by examining radiologists of the American Board of Radiology were gathered, and the results were subjected to receiver operating characteristics analysis.
Results
In the PDA - CT brain study, the scores from PDA readings were significantly higher than those from the monitor readings for all observers (p≤0.01) and for radiologists who were not neuroradiology specialists (p≤0.05). No statistically significant differences were noted for the wrist images or in the iPod Touch studies, although some comparisons approached significance.
Conclusion
Handheld devices show promise in the field of emergency teleconsultation for detection of basic orthopaedic injuries and intracranial haemorrhage, although further investigation is warranted.
doi:10.2214/AJR.09.3418
PMCID: PMC2826276  PMID: 20093611
24.  The Effectiveness of Mobile-Health Technology-Based Health Behaviour Change or Disease Management Interventions for Health Care Consumers: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(1):e1001362.
Caroline Free and colleagues systematically review a fast-moving field, that of the effectiveness of mobile technology interventions delivered to healthcare consumers, and conclude that high-quality, adequately powered trials of optimized interventions are required to evaluate effects on objective outcomes.
Background
Mobile technologies could be a powerful media for providing individual level support to health care consumers. We conducted a systematic review to assess the effectiveness of mobile technology interventions delivered to health care consumers.
Methods and Findings
We searched for all controlled trials of mobile technology-based health interventions delivered to health care consumers using MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Global Health, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, UK NHS HTA (Jan 1990–Sept 2010). Two authors extracted data on allocation concealment, allocation sequence, blinding, completeness of follow-up, and measures of effect. We calculated effect estimates and used random effects meta-analysis. We identified 75 trials. Fifty-nine trials investigated the use of mobile technologies to improve disease management and 26 trials investigated their use to change health behaviours. Nearly all trials were conducted in high-income countries. Four trials had a low risk of bias. Two trials of disease management had low risk of bias; in one, antiretroviral (ART) adherence, use of text messages reduced high viral load (>400 copies), with a relative risk (RR) of 0.85 (95% CI 0.72–0.99), but no statistically significant benefit on mortality (RR 0.79 [95% CI 0.47–1.32]). In a second, a PDA based intervention increased scores for perceived self care agency in lung transplant patients. Two trials of health behaviour management had low risk of bias. The pooled effect of text messaging smoking cessation support on biochemically verified smoking cessation was (RR 2.16 [95% CI 1.77–2.62]). Interventions for other conditions showed suggestive benefits in some cases, but the results were not consistent. No evidence of publication bias was demonstrated on visual or statistical examination of the funnel plots for either disease management or health behaviours. To address the limitation of the older search, we also reviewed more recent literature.
Conclusions
Text messaging interventions increased adherence to ART and smoking cessation and should be considered for inclusion in services. Although there is suggestive evidence of benefit in some other areas, high quality adequately powered trials of optimised interventions are required to evaluate effects on objective outcomes.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
Every year, millions of people die from cardiovascular diseases (diseases of the heart and circulation), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (a long-term lung disease), lung cancer, HIV infection, and diabetes. These diseases are increasingly important causes of mortality (death) in low- and middle-income countries and are responsible for nearly 40% of deaths in high-income countries. For all these diseases, individuals can adopt healthy behaviors that help prevent disease onset. For example, people can lower their risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by maintaining a healthy body weight, and, if they are smokers, they can reduce their risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease by giving up cigarettes. In addition, optimal treatment of existing diseases can reduce mortality and morbidity (illness). Thus, in people who are infected with HIV, antiretroviral therapy delays the progression of HIV infection and the onset of AIDS, and in people who have diabetes, good blood sugar control can prevent retinopathy (a type of blindness) and other serious complications of diabetes.
Why Was This Study Done?
Health-care providers need effective ways to encourage "health-care consumers" to make healthy lifestyle choices and to self-manage chronic diseases. The amount of information, encouragement and support that can be conveyed to individuals during face-to-face consultations or through traditional media such as leaflets is limited, but mobile technologies such as mobile phones and portable computers have the potential to transform the delivery of health messages. These increasingly popular technologies—more than two-thirds of the world's population now owns a mobile phone—can be used to deliver health messages to people anywhere and at the most relevant times. For example, smokers trying to quit smoking can be sent regular text messages to sustain their motivation, but can also use text messaging to request extra support when it is needed. But is "mHealth," the provision of health-related services using mobile communication technology, an effective way to deliver health messages to health-care consumers? In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers assess the effectiveness of mobile technology-based health behavior change interventions and disease management interventions delivered to health-care consumers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 75 controlled trials (studies that compare the outcomes of people who do and do not receive an intervention) of mobile technology-based health interventions delivered to health-care consumers that met their predefined criteria. Twenty-six trials investigated the use of mobile technologies to change health behaviors, 59 investigated their use in disease management, most were of low quality, and nearly all were undertaken in high-income countries. In one high-quality trial that used text messages to improve adherence to antiretroviral therapy among HIV-positive patients in Kenya, the intervention significantly reduced the patients’ viral load but did not significantly reduce mortality (the observed reduction in deaths may have happened by chance). In two high-quality UK trials, a smoking intervention based on text messaging (txt2stop) more than doubled biochemically verified smoking cessation. Other lower-quality trials indicated that using text messages to encourage physical activity improved diabetes control but had no effect on body weight. Combined diet and physical activity text messaging interventions also had no effect on weight, whereas interventions for other conditions showed suggestive benefits in some but not all cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide mixed evidence for the effectiveness of health intervention delivery to health-care consumers using mobile technologies. Moreover, they highlight the need for additional high-quality controlled trials of this mHealth application, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Specifically, the demonstration that text messaging interventions increased adherence to antiretroviral therapy in a low-income setting and increased smoking cessation in a high-income setting provides some support for the inclusion of these two interventions in health-care services in similar settings. However, the effects of these two interventions need to be established in other settings and their cost-effectiveness needs to be measured before they are widely implemented. Finally, for other mobile technology–based interventions designed to change health behaviors or to improve self-management of chronic diseases, the results of this systematic review suggest that the interventions need to be optimized before further trials are undertaken to establish their clinical benefits.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001362.
A related PLOS Medicine Research Article by Free et al. investigates the ability of mHealth technologies to improve health-care service delivery processes
Wikipedia has a page on mHealth (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
mHealth: New horizons for health through mobile technologies is a global survey of mHealth prepared by the World Health Organization’s Global Observatory for eHealth (eHealth is health-care practice supported by electronic processes and communication)
The mHealth in Low-Resource Settings website, which is maintained by the Netherlands Royal Tropical Institute, provides information on the current use, potential, and limitations of mHealth in low-resource settings
More information about Txt2stop is available, the UK National Health Service Choices website provides an analysis of the Txt2stop trial and what its results mean, and the UK National Health Service Smokefree website provides a link to a Quit App for the iPhone
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a text messaging service that delivers regular health tips and alerts to mobile phones
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001362
PMCID: PMC3548655  PMID: 23349621
25.  Information from Pharmaceutical Companies and the Quality, Quantity, and Cost of Physicians' Prescribing: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(10):e1000352.
Geoff Spurling and colleagues report findings of a systematic review looking at the relationship between exposure to promotional material from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of prescribing. They fail to find evidence of improvements in prescribing after exposure, and find some evidence of an association with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality.
Background
Pharmaceutical companies spent $57.5 billion on pharmaceutical promotion in the United States in 2004. The industry claims that promotion provides scientific and educational information to physicians. While some evidence indicates that promotion may adversely influence prescribing, physicians hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. The objective of this review is to examine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
Methods and Findings
We searched for studies of physicians with prescribing rights who were exposed to information from pharmaceutical companies (promotional or otherwise). Exposures included pharmaceutical sales representative visits, journal advertisements, attendance at pharmaceutical sponsored meetings, mailed information, prescribing software, and participation in sponsored clinical trials. The outcomes measured were quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing. We searched Medline (1966 to February 2008), International Pharmaceutical Abstracts (1970 to February 2008), Embase (1997 to February 2008), Current Contents (2001 to 2008), and Central (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2007) using the search terms developed with an expert librarian. Additionally, we reviewed reference lists and contacted experts and pharmaceutical companies for information. Randomized and observational studies evaluating information from pharmaceutical companies and measures of physicians' prescribing were independently appraised for methodological quality by two authors. Studies were excluded where insufficient study information precluded appraisal. The full text of 255 articles was retrieved from electronic databases (7,185 studies) and other sources (138 studies). Articles were then excluded because they did not fulfil inclusion criteria (179) or quality appraisal criteria (18), leaving 58 included studies with 87 distinct analyses. Data were extracted independently by two authors and a narrative synthesis performed following the MOOSE guidelines. Of the set of studies examining prescribing quality outcomes, five found associations between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and lower quality prescribing, four did not detect an association, and one found associations with lower and higher quality prescribing. 38 included studies found associations between exposure and higher frequency of prescribing and 13 did not detect an association. Five included studies found evidence for association with higher costs, four found no association, and one found an association with lower costs. The narrative synthesis finding of variable results was supported by a meta-analysis of studies of prescribing frequency that found significant heterogeneity. The observational nature of most included studies is the main limitation of this review.
Conclusions
With rare exceptions, studies of exposure to information provided directly by pharmaceutical companies have found associations with higher prescribing frequency, higher costs, or lower prescribing quality or have not found significant associations. We did not find evidence of net improvements in prescribing, but the available literature does not exclude the possibility that prescribing may sometimes be improved. Still, we recommend that practitioners follow the precautionary principle and thus avoid exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A prescription drug is a medication that can be supplied only with a written instruction (“prescription”) from a physician or other licensed healthcare professional. In 2009, 3.9 billion drug prescriptions were dispensed in the US alone and US pharmaceutical companies made US$300 billion in sales revenue. Every year, a large proportion of this revenue is spent on drug promotion. In 2004, for example, a quarter of US drug revenue was spent on pharmaceutical promotion. The pharmaceutical industry claims that drug promotion—visits from pharmaceutical sales representatives, advertisements in journals and prescribing software, sponsorship of meetings, mailed information—helps to inform and educate healthcare professionals about the risks and benefits of their products and thereby ensures that patients receive the best possible care. Physicians, however, hold a wide range of views about pharmaceutical promotion. Some see it as a useful and convenient source of information. Others deny that they are influenced by pharmaceutical company promotion but claim that it influences other physicians. Meanwhile, several professional organizations have called for tighter control of promotional activities because of fears that pharmaceutical promotion might encourage physicians to prescribe inappropriate or needlessly expensive drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
But is there any evidence that pharmaceutical promotion adversely influences prescribing? Reviews of the research literature undertaken in 2000 and 2005 provide some evidence that drug promotion influences prescribing behavior. However, these reviews only partly assessed the relationship between information from pharmaceutical companies and prescribing costs and quality and are now out of date. In this study, therefore, the researchers undertake a systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic) to reexamine the relationship between exposure to information from pharmaceutical companies and the quality, quantity, and cost of physicians' prescribing.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched the literature for studies of licensed physicians who were exposed to promotional and other information from pharmaceutical companies. They identified 58 studies that included a measure of exposure to any type of information directly provided by pharmaceutical companies and a measure of physicians' prescribing behavior. They then undertook a “narrative synthesis,” a descriptive analysis of the data in these studies. Ten of the studies, they report, examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing quality (as judged, for example, by physician drug choices in response to clinical vignettes). All but one of these studies suggested that exposure to drug company information was associated with lower prescribing quality or no association was detected. In the 51 studies that examined the relationship between exposure to drug company information and prescribing frequency, exposure to information was associated with more frequent prescribing or no association was detected. Thus, for example, 17 out of 29 studies of the effect of pharmaceutical sales representatives' visits found an association between visits and increased prescribing; none found an association with less frequent prescribing. Finally, eight studies examined the relationship between exposure to pharmaceutical company information and prescribing costs. With one exception, these studies indicated that exposure to information was associated with a higher cost of prescribing or no association was detected. So, for example, one study found that physicians with low prescribing costs were more likely to have rarely or never read promotional mail or journal advertisements from pharmaceutical companies than physicians with high prescribing costs.
What Do These Findings Mean?
With rare exceptions, these findings suggest that exposure to pharmaceutical company information is associated with either no effect on physicians' prescribing behavior or with adverse affects (reduced quality, increased frequency, or increased costs). Because most of the studies included in the review were observational studies—the physicians in the studies were not randomly selected to receive or not receive drug company information—it is not possible to conclude that exposure to information actually causes any changes in physician behavior. Furthermore, although these findings provide no evidence for any net improvement in prescribing after exposure to pharmaceutical company information, the researchers note that it would be wrong to conclude that improvements do not sometimes happen. The findings support the case for reforms to reduce negative influence to prescribing from pharmaceutical promotion.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352.
Wikipedia has pages on prescription drugs and on pharmaceutical marketing (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The UK General Medical Council provides guidelines on good practice in prescribing medicines
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information on prescription drugs and on its Bad Ad Program
Healthy Skepticism is an international nonprofit membership association that aims to improve health by reducing harm from misleading health information
The Drug Promotion Database was developed by the World Health Organization Department of Essential Drugs & Medicines Policy and Health Action International Europe to address unethical and inappropriate drug promotion
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000352
PMCID: PMC2957394  PMID: 20976098

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