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
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).
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.
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.
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.
computer communication networks; medical informatics; medical technology; microcomputers; point-of-care technology
In a prospective study to explore connections between clinical information delivery and information retrieval, 41 Canadian family physicians searched an Electronic Knowledge Resource as needed for practice. Research software, called the Information Assessment Method prompted family physicians to report on the situational relevance, perceived cognitive impact, and application of their retrieved information hits. Both the Information Assessment Method and the Electronic Knowledge Resource needed periodic updating to properly address our research questions.
To determine the frequency of software updates when manual or semi-automatic approaches are used by family physicians.
Each family physician received a handheld computer (PDA) that ran the Windows Mobile 6 operating system. For technical reasons, the Information Assessment Method and the Electronic Knowledge Resource were accessed offline on PDA. To update the Electronic Knowledge Resource and the Information Assessment Method, family physicians were asked to synchronize their PDA to their PC. Updating the Information Assessment Method was a manual process, whereas updating the Electronic Knowledge Resource was semi-automatic.
We found: (1) about 25% of family physicians never or rarely updated PDA software on their own (2) a large number of software updates were never installed, and (3) the semi-automatic method was associated with a small increase in the proportion of installed software updates (58.9% versus 48.6% for the manual method).
When a wireless Internet connection is not used to update PDA software, sociotechnical issues complicate mobile data collection and data transfer.
PMID: 20359400 CAMSID: cams799
Computers handheld; software; family practice
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate clinicians' satisfaction and frustrations with the use of a handheld computer system that implements a guideline for management of childhood asthma exacerbations. SETTING: Nine primary-care pediatric practices. DESIGN: Survey component of a randomized, prospective before-after trial. INTERVENTION: Newton MessagePad outfitted with custom software (called "AsthMonitor") that assists in documentation of clinical findings and provides guideline-based recommendations. RESULTS: Overall, 3 users gave strongly positive global ratings while 6 users were neutral. The majority used the documentation functions concurrently with care. Except for recommendations to administer oxygen (which were unsupported by evidence), users found the recommendations appropriate and appreciated the reminders. Seven of 9 participants believed it took more time to document with AsthMonitor. CONCLUSIONS: Handheld computers are acceptable to some office-based practitioners to provide guideline-based advice within the context of the clinical encounter.
To determine the feasibility of capturing self-reported medication events using a handheld computer-based Medication Event Reporting Tool (MERT).
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS
Handheld computers operating the MERT software application were deployed among volunteer physician (n = 185) and nurse (n = 119) participants on the medical wards of four university-affiliated teaching hospitals. Participants were encouraged to complete confidential reports on the handheld computers for medication events observed during the study period.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS
Demographic variables including age, gender, education level, and clinical experience were recorded for all participants. Each MERT report included details on the provider, location, timing and type of medication event recorded. Over the course of 2,311 days of clinician participation, 76 events were reported; the median time for report completion was 231 seconds. The average event reporting rate for all participants was 0.033 reports per clinician shift. Nurses had a significantly higher reporting rate compared to physicians (0.045 vs 0.026 reports/shift, p = .02). Subgroup analysis revealed that attending physicians reported events more frequently than resident physicians (0.042 vs 0.021 reports/shift, p = .03), and at a rate similar to that of nurses (p = .80). Only 5% of MERT medication events were reported to require increased monitoring or treatment.
A handheld-based event reporting tool is a feasible method to record medication events in inpatient hospital care units. Handheld reporting tools may hold promise to augment existing hospital reporting systems.
incident reporting; medication errors; computers; handheld
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.
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 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
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
Recent technical advances in Internet-based client/server applications and new multimedia communications protocols are enabling the development of cost-effective, platform-independent solutions to the problem of remote access to continuously acquired physiological data. The UCLA Neurosurgery Intensive Care Unit (ICU) has developed a distributed computer system that provides access over the World Wide Web (WWW) to current and previously acquired physiological data, such as intracranial pressure, cerebral perfusion pressure, and heart rate from critical care patients. Physicians and clinical researchers can access these data through personal computers from their offices, from their homes, or even while on the road. The system creates and continuously updates a database of all monitored parameters in data formats that can readily be used for further clinical studies. This paper describes an extension to this system that allows for remote interaction with and analysis of the data via the WWW. Physicians can now pose a limited, predefined set of clinically relevant questions to the system without having to be at the patient's bedside.
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.
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
Objective: This study assessed the effect of a handheld computer-based decision support system (DSS) on antibiotic use and patient outcomes in a critical care unit.
Design: A DSS containing four types of evidence (patient microbiology reports, local antibiotic guidelines, unit-specific antibiotic susceptibility data for common bacterial pathogens, and a clinical pulmonary infection score calculator) was developed and implemented on a handheld computer for use in the intensive care unit at a tertiary referral hospital. System impact was assessed in a prospective “before/after” cohort trial lasting 12 months. Outcome measures were defined daily doses (DDDs) of antibiotics per 1,000 patient-days, patient length of stay, and mortality.
Results: The number of admissions, APACHE (Acute Physiology, Age, and Chronic Health Evaluation) II and SAPS (Simplified Acute Physiology Score) II for patients in preintervention, and intervention (DSS use) periods were statistically comparable. The mean patient length of stay and the use of antibiotics in the unit during six months of the DSS use decreased from 7.15 to 6.22 bed-days (p = 0.02) and from 1,767 DDD to 1,458 DDD per 1,000 patient-days (p = 0.04), respectively, with no change in mortality. The DSS was accessed 674 times during 168 days of the trial. Microbiology reports and antibiotic guidelines were the two most commonly used (53% and 22.5%, respectively) types of evidence. The greatest reduction was observed in the use of β-lactamase–resistant penicillins and vancomycin.
Conclusion: Handheld computer-based decision support contributed to a significant reduction in patient length of stay and antibiotic prescribing in a critical care unit.
Novel low-cost approaches for conducting rapid health assessments and health promotion interventions among underserved worker groups are needed. Recruitment and participation of construction workers is particularly challenging due to their often transient periods of work at any one construction site, and their limited time during work to participate in such studies. In the present methodology report, we discuss the experience, advantages and disadvantages of using touch screen handheld devices for the collection of field data from a largely underserved worker population.
In March 2010, a workplace-centered pilot study to examine the feasibility of using a handheld personal device for the rapid health assessment of construction workers in two South Florida Construction sites was undertaken. A 45-item survey instrument, including health-related questions on tobacco exposure, workplace safety practices, musculoskeletal disorders and health symptoms, was programmed onto Apple iPod Touch® devices. Language sensitive (English and Spanish) recruitment scripts, verbal consent forms, and survey questions were all preloaded onto the handheld devices. The experience (time to survey administration and capital cost) of the handheld administration method was recorded and compared to approaches available in the extant literature.
Construction workers were very receptive to the recruitment, interview and assessment processes conducted through the handheld devices. Some workers even welcomed the opportunity to complete the questionnaire themselves using the touch screen handheld device. A list of advantages and disadvantages emerged from this experience that may be useful in the rapid health assessment of underserved populations working in a variety of environmental and occupational health settings.
Handheld devices, which are relatively inexpensive, minimize survey response error, and allow for easy storage of data. These technological research modalities are useful in the collection and assessment of environmental and occupational research data.
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 advantages for physicians, including portability and integration into office workflow. However, negative patient perceptions of physician use of handheld computers in the examining room might limit integration.
To survey patients’ perceptions of handheld use, and compare those with their providers’ perceptions.
A survey of patient attitudes toward handhelds was conducted among patients at a low-income university clinic. Internal Medicine residents providing care were also surveyed.
Patients (N=93) were mostly female (79%) and ethnic minorities (67%) with average age of 39. Only 10% of patients did not like the idea of a handheld computer in the exam room. Other negative attitudes were also seen in a minority of patients. Some physicians (23%) reported reservations about using the handheld with patients.
Negative attitudes were rare among patients, but some providers were concerned about using the handheld in the exam room.
handheld computers; patients; evaluation; outcomes; doctor-patient communication
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.
In this paper we implement the 7-point checklist, a set of dermoscopic criteria widely used by clinicians for melanoma detection, on smart handheld devices, such as the Apple iPhone and iPad. The application developed is using sophisticated image processing and pattern recognition algorithms, yet it is light enough to run on a handheld device with limited memory and computational speed. When combined with a commercially available handheld dermoscope that provides proper lesion illumination, this application provides a truly self-contained handheld system for melanoma detection. Such a device can be used in a clinical setting for routine skin screening, or as an assistive diagnostic device in underserved areas and in developing countries with limited healthcare infrastructure.
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.
We have developed a portable library for automated detection of melanoma termed SkinScan© that can be used on smartphones and other handheld devices. Compared to desktop computers, embedded processors have limited processing speed, memory, and power, but they have the advantage of portability and low cost. In this study we explored the feasibility of running a sophisticated application for automated skin cancer detection on an Apple iPhone 4. Our results demonstrate that the proposed library with the advanced image processing and analysis algorithms has excellent performance on handheld and desktop computers. Therefore, deployment of smartphones as screening devices for skin cancer and other skin diseases can have a significant impact on health care delivery in underserved and remote areas.
Skin cancer detection; melanoma screening; smartphone; handheld device
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.
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
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.