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1.  Surgical procedure logging with use of a hand-held computer 
Canadian Journal of Surgery  2002;45(5):345-350.
Objective
To evaluate the feasibility of incorporating hand-held computing technology in a surgical residency program, by means of hand-held devices for surgical procedure logging linked through the Internet to a central database.
Setting
Division of General Surgery, University of Toronto.
Design
A survey of general surgery residents.
Methods
The 69 residents in the general surgery training program received hand-held computers with preinstalled medical programs and a program designed for surgical procedure logging. Procedural data were uploaded via the Internet to a central database. Survey data were collected regarding previous computer use as well as previous procedure logging methods.
Main outcome measure
Utilization of the procedure logging system.
Results
After a 5-month pilot period, 38% of surgical residents were using the procedure-logging program successfully and on a regular basis. Program use was higher among more junior trainees. Analysis of the database provided valuable information on individual trainees, hospital programs and supervising surgeons, data that would assist in program development.
Conclusions
Hand-held devices can be implemented in a large division of general surgery to provide a reference database and a procedure-logging platform. However, user acceptance is not uniform and continued training and support are necessary to increase acceptance. The procedure database provides important information for optimizing trainees’ educational experience.
PMCID: PMC3684636  PMID: 12387537
2.  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
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.  Acceptability and adoption of handheld computer data collection for public health research in China: a case study 
Background
Handheld computers for data collection (HCDC) and management have become increasingly common in health research. However, current knowledge about the use of HCDC in health research in China is very limited. In this study, we administered a survey to a hard-to-reach population in China using HCDC and assessed the acceptability and adoption of HCDC in China.
Methods
Handheld computers operating Windows Mobile and Questionnaire Development Studio (QDS) software (Nova Research Company) were used for this survey. Questions on tobacco use and susceptibility were drawn from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) and other validated instruments, and these were programmed in Chinese characters by local staff. We conducted a half-day training session for survey supervisors and a three-day training session for 20 interviewers and 9 supervisors. After the training, all trainees completed a self-assessment of their skill level using HCDC. The main study was implemented in fall 2010 in 10 sites, with data managed centrally in Beijing. Study interviewers completed a post-survey evaluation questionnaire on the acceptability and utility of HCDC in survey research.
Results
Twenty-nine trainees completed post-training surveys, and 20 interviewers completed post-data collection questionnaires. After training, more than 90% felt confident about their ability to collect survey data using HCDC, to transfer study data from a handheld computer to a laptop, and to encrypt the survey data file. After data collection, 80% of the interviewers thought data collection and management were easy and 60% of staff felt confident they could solve problems they might encounter. Overall, after data collection, nearly 70% of interviewers reported that they would prefer to use handheld computers for future surveys. More than half (55%) felt the HCDC was a particularly useful data collection tool for studies conducted in China.
Conclusions
We successfully conducted a health-related survey using HCDC. Using handheld computers for data collection was a feasible, acceptable, and preferred method by Chinese interviewers. Despite minor technical issues that occurred during data collection, HCDC is a promising methodology to be used in survey-based research in China.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-68
PMCID: PMC3706303  PMID: 23802988
Surveys; Electronic data collection; Handheld computers; China
5.  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
6.  Internet-Based Device-Assisted Remote Monitoring of Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices 
Executive Summary
Objective
The objective of this Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) report was to conduct a systematic review of the available published evidence on the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted remote monitoring systems (RMSs) for therapeutic cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The MAS evidence-based review was performed to support public financing decisions.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major cause of fatalities in developed countries. In the United States almost half a million people die of SCD annually, resulting in more deaths than stroke, lung cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. In Canada each year more than 40,000 people die from a cardiovascular related cause; approximately half of these deaths are attributable to SCD.
Most cases of SCD occur in the general population typically in those without a known history of heart disease. Most SCDs are caused by cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm caused by malfunctions of the heart’s electrical system. Up to half of patients with significant heart failure (HF) also have advanced conduction abnormalities.
Cardiac arrhythmias are managed by a variety of drugs, ablative procedures, and therapeutic CIEDs. The range of CIEDs includes pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. Bradycardia is the main indication for PMs and individuals at high risk for SCD are often treated by ICDs.
Heart failure (HF) is also a significant health problem and is the most frequent cause of hospitalization in those over 65 years of age. Patients with moderate to severe HF may also have cardiac arrhythmias, although the cause may be related more to heart pump or haemodynamic failure. The presence of HF, however, increases the risk of SCD five-fold, regardless of aetiology. Patients with HF who remain highly symptomatic despite optimal drug therapy are sometimes also treated with CRT devices.
With an increasing prevalence of age-related conditions such as chronic HF and the expanding indications for ICD therapy, the rate of ICD placement has been dramatically increasing. The appropriate indications for ICD placement, as well as the rate of ICD placement, are increasingly an issue. In the United States, after the introduction of expanded coverage of ICDs, a national ICD registry was created in 2005 to track these devices. A recent survey based on this national ICD registry reported that 22.5% (25,145) of patients had received a non-evidence based ICD and that these patients experienced significantly higher in-hospital mortality and post-procedural complications.
In addition to the increased ICD device placement and the upfront device costs, there is the need for lifelong follow-up or surveillance, placing a significant burden on patients and device clinics. In 2007, over 1.6 million CIEDs were implanted in Europe and the United States, which translates to over 5.5 million patient encounters per year if the recommended follow-up practices are considered. A safe and effective RMS could potentially improve the efficiency of long-term follow-up of patients and their CIEDs.
Technology
In addition to being therapeutic devices, CIEDs have extensive diagnostic abilities. All CIEDs can be interrogated and reprogrammed during an in-clinic visit using an inductive programming wand. Remote monitoring would allow patients to transmit information recorded in their devices from the comfort of their own homes. Currently most ICD devices also have the potential to be remotely monitored. Remote monitoring (RM) can be used to check system integrity, to alert on arrhythmic episodes, and to potentially replace in-clinic follow-ups and manage disease remotely. They do not currently have the capability of being reprogrammed remotely, although this feature is being tested in pilot settings.
Every RMS is specifically designed by a manufacturer for their cardiac implant devices. For Internet-based device-assisted RMSs, this customization includes details such as web application, multiplatform sensors, custom algorithms, programming information, and types and methods of alerting patients and/or physicians. The addition of peripherals for monitoring weight and pressure or communicating with patients through the onsite communicators also varies by manufacturer. Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs are intended to function as a surveillance system rather than an emergency system.
Health care providers therefore need to learn each application, and as more than one application may be used at one site, multiple applications may need to be reviewed for alarms. All RMSs deliver system integrity alerting; however, some systems seem to be better geared to fast arrhythmic alerting, whereas other systems appear to be more intended for remote follow-up or supplemental remote disease management. The different RMSs may therefore have different impacts on workflow organization because of their varying frequency of interrogation and methods of alerts. The integration of these proprietary RM web-based registry systems with hospital-based electronic health record systems has so far not been commonly implemented.
Currently there are 2 general types of RMSs: those that transmit device diagnostic information automatically and without patient assistance to secure Internet-based registry systems, and those that require patient assistance to transmit information. Both systems employ the use of preprogrammed alerts that are either transmitted automatically or at regular scheduled intervals to patients and/or physicians.
The current web applications, programming, and registry systems differ greatly between the manufacturers of transmitting cardiac devices. In Canada there are currently 4 manufacturers—Medtronic Inc., Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corp., and St Jude Medical Inc.—which have regulatory approval for remote transmitting CIEDs. Remote monitoring systems are proprietary to the manufacturer of the implant device. An RMS for one device will not work with another device, and the RMS may not work with all versions of the manufacturer’s devices.
All Internet-based device-assisted RMSs have common components. The implanted device is equipped with a micro-antenna that communicates with a small external device (at bedside or wearable) commonly known as the transmitter. Transmitters are able to interrogate programmed parameters and diagnostic data stored in the patients’ implant device. The information transfer to the communicator can occur at preset time intervals with the participation of the patient (waving a wand over the device) or it can be sent automatically (wirelessly) without their participation. The encrypted data are then uploaded to an Internet-based database on a secure central server. The data processing facilities at the central database, depending on the clinical urgency, can trigger an alert for the physician(s) that can be sent via email, fax, text message, or phone. The details are also posted on the secure website for viewing by the physician (or their delegate) at their convenience.
Research Questions
The research directions and specific research questions for this evidence review were as follows:
To identify the Internet-based device-assisted RMSs available for follow-up of patients with therapeutic CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To identify the potential risks, operational issues, or organizational issues related to Internet-based device-assisted RM for CIEDs.
To evaluate the safety, acceptability, and effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To evaluate the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs compared to usual outpatient in-office monitoring strategies.
To evaluate the resource implications or budget impact of RMSs for CIEDs in Ontario, Canada.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The review included a systematic review of published scientific literature and consultations with experts and manufacturers of all 4 approved RMSs for CIEDs in Canada. Information on CIED cardiac implant clinics was also obtained from Provincial Programs, a division within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with a mandate for cardiac implant specialty care. Various administrative databases and registries were used to outline the current clinical follow-up burden of CIEDs in Ontario. The provincial population-based ICD database developed and maintained by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) was used to review the current follow-up practices with Ontario patients implanted with ICD devices.
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on September 21, 2010 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 1950 to September 2010. Search alerts were generated and reviewed for additional relevant literature until December 31, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search.
Inclusion Criteria
published between 1950 and September 2010;
English language full-reports and human studies;
original reports including clinical evaluations of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports including standardized measurements on outcome events such as technical success, safety, effectiveness, cost, measures of health care utilization, morbidity, mortality, quality of life or patient satisfaction;
randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, cohort and controlled clinical studies.
Exclusion Criteria
non-systematic reviews, letters, comments and editorials;
reports not involving standardized outcome events;
clinical reports not involving Internet-based device assisted RM systems for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports involving studies testing or validating algorithms without RM;
studies with small samples (<10 subjects).
Outcomes of Interest
The outcomes of interest included: technical outcomes, emergency department visits, complications, major adverse events, symptoms, hospital admissions, clinic visits (scheduled and/or unscheduled), survival, morbidity (disease progression, stroke, etc.), patient satisfaction, and quality of life.
Summary of Findings
The MAS evidence review was performed to review available evidence on Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs published until September 2010. The search identified 6 systematic reviews, 7 randomized controlled trials, and 19 reports for 16 cohort studies—3 of these being registry-based and 4 being multi-centered. The evidence is summarized in the 3 sections that follow.
1. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems of CIEDs for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Device Functioning
In total, 15 reports on 13 cohort studies involving investigations with 4 different RMSs for CIEDs in cardiology implant clinic groups were identified in the review. The 4 RMSs were: Care Link Network® (Medtronic Inc,, Minneapolis, MN, USA); Home Monitoring® (Biotronic, Berlin, Germany); House Call 11® (St Jude Medical Inc., St Pauls, MN, USA); and a manufacturer-independent RMS. Eight of these reports were with the Home Monitoring® RMS (12,949 patients), 3 were with the Care Link® RMS (167 patients), 1 was with the House Call 11® RMS (124 patients), and 1 was with a manufacturer-independent RMS (44 patients). All of the studies, except for 2 in the United States, (1 with Home Monitoring® and 1 with House Call 11®), were performed in European countries.
The RMSs in the studies were evaluated with different cardiac implant device populations: ICDs only (6 studies), ICD and CRT devices (3 studies), PM and ICD and CRT devices (4 studies), and PMs only (2 studies). The patient populations were predominately male (range, 52%–87%) in all studies, with mean ages ranging from 58 to 76 years. One study population was unique in that RMSs were evaluated for ICDs implanted solely for primary prevention in young patients (mean age, 44 years) with Brugada syndrome, which carries an inherited increased genetic risk for sudden heart attack in young adults.
Most of the cohort studies reported on the feasibility of RMSs in clinical settings with limited follow-up. In the short follow-up periods of the studies, the majority of the events were related to detection of medical events rather than system configuration or device abnormalities. The results of the studies are summarized below:
The interrogation of devices on the web platform, both for continuous and scheduled transmissions, was significantly quicker with remote follow-up, both for nurses and physicians.
In a case-control study focusing on a Brugada population–based registry with patients followed-up remotely, there were significantly fewer outpatient visits and greater detection of inappropriate shocks. One death occurred in the control group not followed remotely and post-mortem analysis indicated early signs of lead failure prior to the event.
Two studies examined the role of RMSs in following ICD leads under regulatory advisory in a European clinical setting and noted:
– Fewer inappropriate shocks were administered in the RM group.
– Urgent in-office interrogations and surgical revisions were performed within 12 days of remote alerts.
– No signs of lead fracture were detected at in-office follow-up; all were detected at remote follow-up.
Only 1 study reported evaluating quality of life in patients followed up remotely at 3 and 6 months; no values were reported.
Patient satisfaction was evaluated in 5 cohort studies, all in short term follow-up: 1 for the Home Monitoring® RMS, 3 for the Care Link® RMS, and 1 for the House Call 11® RMS.
– Patients reported receiving a sense of security from the transmitter, a good relationship with nurses and physicians, positive implications for their health, and satisfaction with RM and organization of services.
– Although patients reported that the system was easy to implement and required less than 10 minutes to transmit information, a variable proportion of patients (range, 9% 39%) reported that they needed the assistance of a caregiver for their transmission.
– The majority of patients would recommend RM to other ICD patients.
– Patients with hearing or other physical or mental conditions hindering the use of the system were excluded from studies, but the frequency of this was not reported.
Physician satisfaction was evaluated in 3 studies, all with the Care Link® RMS:
– Physicians reported an ease of use and high satisfaction with a generally short-term use of the RMS.
– Physicians reported being able to address the problems in unscheduled patient transmissions or physician initiated transmissions remotely, and were able to handle the majority of the troubleshooting calls remotely.
– Both nurses and physicians reported a high level of satisfaction with the web registry system.
2. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems in Heart Failure Patients for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Heart Failure Episodes
Remote follow-up of HF patients implanted with ICD or CRT devices, generally managed in specialized HF clinics, was evaluated in 3 cohort studies: 1 involved the Home Monitoring® RMS and 2 involved the Care Link® RMS. In these RMSs, in addition to the standard diagnostic features, the cardiac devices continuously assess other variables such as patient activity, mean heart rate, and heart rate variability. Intra-thoracic impedance, a proxy measure for lung fluid overload, was also measured in the Care Link® studies. The overall diagnostic performance of these measures cannot be evaluated, as the information was not reported for patients who did not experience intra-thoracic impedance threshold crossings or did not undergo interventions. The trial results involved descriptive information on transmissions and alerts in patients experiencing high morbidity and hospitalization in the short study periods.
3. Comparative Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems for CIEDs
Seven RCTs were identified evaluating RMSs for CIEDs: 2 were for PMs (1276 patients) and 5 were for ICD/CRT devices (3733 patients). Studies performed in the clinical setting in the United States involved both the Care Link® RMS and the Home Monitoring® RMS, whereas all studies performed in European countries involved only the Home Monitoring® RMS.
3A. Randomized Controlled Trials of Remote Monitoring Systems for Pacemakers
Two trials, both multicenter RCTs, were conducted in different countries with different RMSs and study objectives. The PREFER trial was a large trial (897 patients) performed in the United States examining the ability of Care Link®, an Internet-based remote PM interrogation system, to detect clinically actionable events (CAEs) sooner than the current in-office follow-up supplemented with transtelephonic monitoring transmissions, a limited form of remote device interrogation. The trial results are summarized below:
In the 375-day mean follow-up, 382 patients were identified with at least 1 CAE—111 patients in the control arm and 271 in the remote arm.
The event rate detected per patient for every type of CAE, except for loss of atrial capture, was higher in the remote arm than the control arm.
The median time to first detection of CAEs (4.9 vs. 6.3 months) was significantly shorter in the RMS group compared to the control group (P < 0.0001).
Additionally, only 2% (3/190) of the CAEs in the control arm were detected during a transtelephonic monitoring transmission (the rest were detected at in-office follow-ups), whereas 66% (446/676) of the CAEs were detected during remote interrogation.
The second study, the OEDIPE trial, was a smaller trial (379 patients) performed in France evaluating the ability of the Home Monitoring® RMS to shorten PM post-operative hospitalization while preserving the safety of conventional management of longer hospital stays.
Implementation and operationalization of the RMS was reported to be successful in 91% (346/379) of the patients and represented 8144 transmissions.
In the RM group 6.5% of patients failed to send messages (10 due to improper use of the transmitter, 2 with unmanageable stress). Of the 172 patients transmitting, 108 patients sent a total of 167 warnings during the trial, with a greater proportion of warnings being attributed to medical rather than technical causes.
Forty percent had no warning message transmission and among these, 6 patients experienced a major adverse event and 1 patient experienced a non-major adverse event. Of the 6 patients having a major adverse event, 5 contacted their physician.
The mean medical reaction time was faster in the RM group (6.5 ± 7.6 days vs. 11.4 ± 11.6 days).
The mean duration of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) for the RM group than the control group (3.2 ± 3.2 days vs. 4.8 ± 3.7 days).
Quality of life estimates by the SF-36 questionnaire were similar for the 2 groups at 1-month follow-up.
3B. Randomized Controlled Trials Evaluating Remote Monitoring Systems for ICD or CRT Devices
The 5 studies evaluating the impact of RMSs with ICD/CRT devices were conducted in the United States and in European countries and involved 2 RMSs—Care Link® and Home Monitoring ®. The objectives of the trials varied and 3 of the trials were smaller pilot investigations.
The first of the smaller studies (151 patients) evaluated patient satisfaction, achievement of patient outcomes, and the cost-effectiveness of the Care Link® RMS compared to quarterly in-office device interrogations with 1-year follow-up.
Individual outcomes such as hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly different between the study groups.
Except for a significantly higher detection of atrial fibrillation in the RM group, data on ICD detection and therapy were similar in the study groups.
Health-related quality of life evaluated by the EuroQoL at 6-month or 12-month follow-up was not different between study groups.
Patients were more satisfied with their ICD care in the clinic follow-up group than in the remote follow-up group at 6-month follow-up, but were equally satisfied at 12- month follow-up.
The second small pilot trial (20 patients) examined the impact of RM follow-up with the House Call 11® system on work schedules and cost savings in patients randomized to 2 study arms varying in the degree of remote follow-up.
The total time including device interrogation, transmission time, data analysis, and physician time required was significantly shorter for the RM follow-up group.
The in-clinic waiting time was eliminated for patients in the RM follow-up group.
The physician talk time was significantly reduced in the RM follow-up group (P < 0.05).
The time for the actual device interrogation did not differ in the study groups.
The third small trial (115 patients) examined the impact of RM with the Home Monitoring® system compared to scheduled trimonthly in-clinic visits on the number of unplanned visits, total costs, health-related quality of life (SF-36), and overall mortality.
There was a 63.2% reduction in in-office visits in the RM group.
Hospitalizations or overall mortality (values not stated) were not significantly different between the study groups.
Patient-induced visits were higher in the RM group than the in-clinic follow-up group.
The TRUST Trial
The TRUST trial was a large multicenter RCT conducted at 102 centers in the United States involving the Home Monitoring® RMS for ICD devices for 1450 patients. The primary objectives of the trial were to determine if remote follow-up could be safely substituted for in-office clinic follow-up (3 in-office visits replaced) and still enable earlier physician detection of clinically actionable events.
Adherence to the protocol follow-up schedule was significantly higher in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (93.5% vs. 88.7%, P < 0.001).
Actionability of trimonthly scheduled checks was low (6.6%) in both study groups. Overall, actionable causes were reprogramming (76.2%), medication changes (24.8%), and lead/system revisions (4%), and these were not different between the 2 study groups.
The overall mean number of in-clinic and hospital visits was significantly lower in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (2.1 per patient-year vs. 3.8 per patient-year, P < 0.001), representing a 45% visit reduction at 12 months.
The median time from onset of first arrhythmia to physician evaluation was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group than in the in-office follow-up group for all arrhythmias (1 day vs. 35.5 days).
The median time to detect clinically asymptomatic arrhythmia events—atrial fibrillation (AF), ventricular fibrillation (VF), ventricular tachycardia (VT), and supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT)—was also significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group compared to the in-office follow-up group (1 day vs. 41.5 days) and was significantly quicker for each of the clinical arrhythmia events—AF (5.5 days vs. 40 days), VT (1 day vs. 28 days), VF (1 day vs. 36 days), and SVT (2 days vs. 39 days).
System-related problems occurred infrequently in both groups—in 1.5% of patients (14/908) in the RM group and in 0.7% of patients (3/432) in the in-office follow-up group.
The overall adverse event rate over 12 months was not significantly different between the 2 groups and individual adverse events were also not significantly different between the RM group and the in-office follow-up group: death (3.4% vs. 4.9%), stroke (0.3% vs. 1.2%), and surgical intervention (6.6% vs. 4.9%), respectively.
The 12-month cumulative survival was 96.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 95.5%–97.6%) in the RM group and 94.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 91.8%–96.6%) in the in-office follow-up group, and was not significantly different between the 2 groups (P = 0.174).
The CONNECT Trial
The CONNECT trial, another major multicenter RCT, involved the Care Link® RMS for ICD/CRT devices in a15-month follow-up study of 1,997 patients at 133 sites in the United States. The primary objective of the trial was to determine whether automatically transmitted physician alerts decreased the time from the occurrence of clinically relevant events to medical decisions. The trial results are summarized below:
Of the 575 clinical alerts sent in the study, 246 did not trigger an automatic physician alert. Transmission failures were related to technical issues such as the alert not being programmed or not being reset, and/or a variety of patient factors such as not being at home and the monitor not being plugged in or set up.
The overall mean time from the clinically relevant event to the clinical decision was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) by 17.4 days in the remote follow-up group (4.6 days for 172 patients) than the in-office follow-up group (22 days for 145 patients).
– The median time to a clinical decision was shorter in the remote follow-up group than in the in-office follow-up group for an AT/AF burden greater than or equal to 12 hours (3 days vs. 24 days) and a fast VF rate greater than or equal to 120 beats per minute (4 days vs. 23 days).
Although infrequent, similar low numbers of events involving low battery and VF detection/therapy turned off were noted in both groups. More alerts, however, were noted for out-of-range lead impedance in the RM group (18 vs. 6 patients), and the time to detect these critical events was significantly shorter in the RM group (same day vs. 17 days).
Total in-office clinic visits were reduced by 38% from 6.27 visits per patient-year in the in-office follow-up group to 3.29 visits per patient-year in the remote follow-up group.
Health care utilization visits (N = 6,227) that included cardiovascular-related hospitalization, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly higher in the remote follow-up group.
The overall mean length of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P = 0.002) for those in the remote follow-up group (3.3 days vs. 4.0 days) and was shorter both for patients with ICD (3.0 days vs. 3.6 days) and CRT (3.8 days vs. 4.7 days) implants.
The mortality rate between the study arms was not significantly different between the follow-up groups for the ICDs (P = 0.31) or the CRT devices with defribillator (P = 0.46).
Conclusions
There is limited clinical trial information on the effectiveness of RMSs for PMs. However, for RMSs for ICD devices, multiple cohort studies and 2 large multicenter RCTs demonstrated feasibility and significant reductions in in-office clinic follow-ups with RMSs in the first year post implantation. The detection rates of clinically significant events (and asymptomatic events) were higher, and the time to a clinical decision for these events was significantly shorter, in the remote follow-up groups than in the in-office follow-up groups. The earlier detection of clinical events in the remote follow-up groups, however, was not associated with lower morbidity or mortality rates in the 1-year follow-up. The substitution of almost all the first year in-office clinic follow-ups with RM was also not associated with an increased health care utilization such as emergency department visits or hospitalizations.
The follow-up in the trials was generally short-term, up to 1 year, and was a more limited assessment of potential longer term device/lead integrity complications or issues. None of the studies compared the different RMSs, particularly the different RMSs involving patient-scheduled transmissions or automatic transmissions. Patients’ acceptance of and satisfaction with RM were reported to be high, but the impact of RM on patients’ health-related quality of life, particularly the psychological aspects, was not evaluated thoroughly. Patients who are not technologically competent, having hearing or other physical/mental impairments, were identified as potentially disadvantaged with remote surveillance. Cohort studies consistently identified subgroups of patients who preferred in-office follow-up. The evaluation of costs and workflow impact to the health care system were evaluated in European or American clinical settings, and only in a limited way.
Internet-based device-assisted RMSs involve a new approach to monitoring patients, their disease progression, and their CIEDs. Remote monitoring also has the potential to improve the current postmarket surveillance systems of evolving CIEDs and their ongoing hardware and software modifications. At this point, however, there is insufficient information to evaluate the overall impact to the health care system, although the time saving and convenience to patients and physicians associated with a substitution of in-office follow-up by RM is more certain. The broader issues surrounding infrastructure, impacts on existing clinical care systems, and regulatory concerns need to be considered for the implementation of Internet-based RMSs in jurisdictions involving different clinical practices.
PMCID: PMC3377571  PMID: 23074419
7.  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
8.  Tapping Trumps Typing: How Users Enter Data in an Electronic Student Encounter Log 
Handheld encounter logs that accurately record patient diagnoses could facilitate several educational tasks. Unfortunately, data entry on hand-held computers is notoriously difficult, requiring either tapping buttons or entering text, for instance by typing. In most medical reference software, long lists of inputs adjust to match typed data, reducing the burden of data entry. Tapping is faster if the user can locate the correct target quickly, but designing and maintaining screens with many fixed targets is tedious, and the program grows large. We developed an Electronic Student Encounter Log, ESEL, allowing students to tap or type to record problems observed in ambulatory patients. The tapping interface comprises collections of related disease checkboxes organized in a shallow, broad tree structure, making 983 diagnoses visible with 2 taps. The typing interface mimics typical reference software, scrolling and searching a list of 1332 common problems to match user-entered text. ESEL records how students look for diagnoses to record. Analysis of 62 ambulatory care students’ ESEL records showed that they used the tapping interface much more often than the typing interface, and recorded data more quickly by tapping than by typing. If accuracy is acceptable, more robust tapping interfaces deserve wider consideration for data capture on handheld computers.
PMCID: PMC1839468  PMID: 17238313
9.  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
10.  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
11.  Rates and Determinants of Uptake and Use of an Internet Physical Activity and Weight Management Program in Office and Manufacturing Work Sites in England: Cohort Study 
Background
Internet-based physical activity (PA) and weight management programs have the potential to improve employees’ health in large occupational health settings. To be successful, the program must engage a wide range of employees, especially those at risk of weight gain or ill health.
Objective
The aim of the study was to assess the use and nonuse (user attrition) of a Web-based and monitoring device–based PA and weight management program in a range of employees and to determine if engagement with the program was related to the employees’ baseline characteristics or measured outcomes.
Methods
Longitudinal observational study of a cohort of employees having access to the MiLife Web-based automated behavior change system. Employees were recruited from manufacturing and office sites in the North West and the South of England. Baseline health data were collected, and participants were given devices to monitor their weight and PA via data upload to the website. Website use, PA, and weight data were collected throughout the 12-week program.
Results
Overall, 12% of employees at the four sites (265/2302) agreed to participate in the program, with 130 men (49%) and 135 women (51%), and of these, 233 went on to start the program. During the program, the dropout rate was 5% (11/233). Of the remaining 222 Web program users, 173 (78%) were using the program at the end of the 12 weeks, with 69% (153/222) continuing after this period. Engagement with the program varied by site but was not significantly different between the office and factory sites. During the first 2 weeks, participants used the website, on average, 6 times per week, suggesting an initial learning period after which the frequency of website log-in was typically 2 visits per week and 7 minutes per visit. Employees who uploaded weight data had a significant reduction in weight (−2.6 kg, SD 3.2, P< .001). The reduction in weight was largest for employees using the program’s weight loss mode (−3.4 kg, SD 3.5). Mean PA level recorded throughout the program was 173 minutes (SE 12.8) of moderate/high intensity PA per week. Website interaction time was higher and attrition rates were lower (OR 1.38, P= .03) in those individuals with the greatest weight loss.
Conclusions
This Web-based PA and weight management program showed high levels of engagement across a wide range of employees, including overweight or obese workers, shift workers, and those who do not work with computers. Weight loss was observed at both office and manufacturing sites. The use of monitoring devices to capture and send data to the automated Web-based coaching program may have influenced the high levels of engagement observed in this study. When combined with objective monitoring devices for PA and weight, both use of the website and outcomes can be tracked, allowing the online coaching program to become more personalized to the individual.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1108
PMCID: PMC2629365  PMID: 19117828
Employee health; Internet; device; behavior change; body weight; psychology; physical activity; occupational health; diet; technology
12.  Development of Real-Time Dual-Display Handheld and Bench-Top Hybrid-Mode SD-OCTs 
Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)  2014;14(2):2171-2181.
Development of a dual-display handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT) system for retina and optic-nerve-head diagnosis beyond the volunteer motion constraints is reported. The developed system is portable and easily movable, containing the compact portable OCT system that includes the handheld probe and computer. Eye posterior chambers were diagnosed using the handheld probe, and the probe could be fixed to the bench-top cradle depending on the volunteers' physical condition. The images obtained using this handheld probe were displayed in real time on the computer monitor and on a small secondary built-in monitor; the displayed images were saved using the handheld probe's built-in button. Large-scale signal-processing procedures such as k-domain linearization, fast Fourier transform (FFT), and log-scaling signal processing can be rapidly applied using graphics-processing-unit (GPU) accelerated processing rather than central-processing-unit (CPU) processing. The Labview-based system resolution is 1,024 × 512 pixels, and the frame rate is 56 frames/s, useful for real-time display. The 3D images of the posterior chambers including the retina, optic-nerve head, blood vessels, and optic nerve were composed using real-time displayed images with 500 × 500 × 500 pixel resolution. A handheld and bench-top hybrid mode with a dual-display handheld OCT was developed to overcome the drawbacks of the conventional method.
doi:10.3390/s140202171
PMCID: PMC3958276  PMID: 24473286
OCT; handheld probe; GPU; real time; dual display
13.  Use of handheld computers in clinical practice: a systematic review 
Background
Many healthcare professionals use smartphones and tablets to inform patient care. Contemporary research suggests that handheld computers may support aspects of clinical diagnosis and management. This systematic review was designed to synthesise high quality evidence to answer the question; Does healthcare professionals’ use of handheld computers improve their access to information and support clinical decision making at the point of care?
Methods
A detailed search was conducted using Cochrane, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Science and Social Science Citation Indices since 2001. Interventions promoting healthcare professionals seeking information or making clinical decisions using handheld computers were included. Classroom learning and the use of laptop computers were excluded. Two authors independently selected studies, assessed quality using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tool and extracted data. High levels of data heterogeneity negated statistical synthesis. Instead, evidence for effectiveness was summarised narratively, according to each study’s aim for assessing the impact of handheld computer use.
Results
We included seven randomised trials investigating medical or nursing staffs’ use of Personal Digital Assistants. Effectiveness was demonstrated across three distinct functions that emerged from the data: accessing information for clinical knowledge, adherence to guidelines and diagnostic decision making. When healthcare professionals used handheld computers to access clinical information, their knowledge improved significantly more than peers who used paper resources. When clinical guideline recommendations were presented on handheld computers, clinicians made significantly safer prescribing decisions and adhered more closely to recommendations than peers using paper resources. Finally, healthcare professionals made significantly more appropriate diagnostic decisions using clinical decision making tools on handheld computers compared to colleagues who did not have access to these tools. For these clinical decisions, the numbers need to test/screen were all less than 11.
Conclusion
Healthcare professionals’ use of handheld computers may improve their information seeking, adherence to guidelines and clinical decision making. Handheld computers can provide real time access to and analysis of clinical information. The integration of clinical decision support systems within handheld computers offers clinicians the highest level of synthesised evidence at the point of care. Future research is needed to replicate these early results and to identify beneficial clinical outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-56
PMCID: PMC4099138  PMID: 24998515
Handheld computers; Smartphone; Information-seeking behaviour; Evidence-based practice; Knowledge translation; Clinical decision support systems; Clinical guidelines; Diagnostic decision making
14.  Clinician Use of a Palmtop Drug Reference Guide 
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.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M1001
PMCID: PMC344582  PMID: 11971883
15.  Electronic Data Collection and Management System for Global Adult Tobacco Survey 
Online Journal of Public Health Informatics  2012;4(2):ojphi.v4i2.4190.
Introduction:
Portable handheld computers and electronic data management systems have been used for national surveys in many high-income countries, however their use in developing countries has been challenging due to varying geographical, economic, climatic, political and cultural environments. In order to monitor and measure global adult tobacco use, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiated the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, a nationally representative household survey of adults, 15 years of age or older, using a standard core questionnaire, sample design, and data collection and management procedures. The Survey has been conducted in 14 low- and middle-income countries, using an electronic data collection and management system. This paper describes implementation of the electronic data collection system and associated findings.
Methods:
The Survey was based on a comprehensive data management protocol, to enable standardized, globally comparable high quality data collection and management. It included adaptation to specific country needs, selection of appropriate handheld hardware devices, use of open source software, and building country capacity and provide technical support.
Results:
In its first phase, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey was successfully conducted between 2008 and 2010, using an electronic data collection and management system for interviews in 302,800 households in 14 countries. More than 2,644 handheld computers were fielded and over 2,634 fieldworkers, supervisors and monitors were trained to use them. Questionnaires were developed and programmed in 38 languages and scripts. The global hardware failure rate was < 1% and data loss was almost 0%.
Conclusion:
Electronic data collection and management systems can be used effectively for conducting nationally representative surveys, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, irrespective of geographical, climatic, political and cultural environments, and capacity-building at the country level is an important vehicle for Health System Strengthening.
doi:10.5210/ojphi.v4i2.4190
PMCID: PMC3615815  PMID: 23569638
Electronic data collection and management; Tobacco Control Surveillance; Low and middle income countries; Handheld; General Survey System; Global Adult Tobacco Survey
16.  Gay and Bisexual men's use of the Internet: Research from the 1990s through 2013 
Journal of sex research  2014;51(4):390-409.
In this review, we document the historical and cultural shifts in how gay and bisexual men have used the Internet for sexuality between the 1990s and 2013. Over that time, gay and bisexual men have rapidly taken to using the Internet for sexual purposes: sexual health information seeking, finding sex partners, dating, cybersex, and pornography. Gay and bisexual men have adapted to the ever-evolving technological advances that have been made in connecting users to the Internet—from logging into the World Wide Web via dial-up modem on a desktop computer to geo-social and sexual networking via a handheld device. In kind, researchers too have adapted to the Internet to study gay and bisexual men, though not at the same rapid pace at which technology (and its users) have advanced. Studies have carefully considered the ethics, feasibility, and acceptability of using the Internet to conduct research and interventions with gay and bisexual men. Much of this work has been grounded in models of disease prevention, largely as a result of the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The urgent need to reduce HIV in this population has been a driving force to develop innovative research and Internet-based intervention methodologies. Moving forward, a more holistic understanding of gay and bisexual men's sexual behavior might be warranted to address continued HIV and STI disparities. The Internet, and specifically mobile technology, is an environment gay and bisexual men are using for sexual purposes. These innovative technologies represent powerful resources for researchers to study and provide rapidly evolving outreach to gay and bisexual men.
doi:10.1080/00224499.2013.871626
PMCID: PMC4154140  PMID: 24754360
Gay men; the Internet; sexual behavior; HIV/AIDS
17.  Evaluating a Social Network Analytic Tool to Support Outbreak Management and Contact Tracing in an Outbreak of Pertussis 
Objective
To determine the feasibility and value of a social network analysis tool to support pertussis outbreak management and contact tracing in the state of Utah.
Introduction
Pertussis (i.e., whooping cough) is on the rise in the US. To implement effective prevention and treatment strategies, it is critical to conduct timely contact tracing and evaluate people who may have come into contact with an infected person. We describe a collaborative effort between epidemiologists and public health informaticists at the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) to determine the feasibility and value of a network-analytic approach to pertussis outbreak management and contact tracing.
Methods
The partnership: In early 2012, epidemiologists from UDOH’s Vaccine Preventable Disease Program and UDOH’s public health informaticists formed a partnership to determine the feasibility and value of the Organizational Risk Analyzer (ORA) in pertussis outbreak management and contact tracing (1). Both entities have a longstanding partnership. A characteristic that has made the collaboration particularly strong and mutually beneficial is that both partners have expertise in disease surveillance and outbreak management. In addition, the informaticists have expertise in devising systems that help frontline healthcare providers.
The Organizational Risk Analyzer (ORA): ORA is a computational tool that extends network analysis by using a meta-matrix model. A meta-matrix is defined as a network of connecting entities. The tool uses one or more matrices in an organization’s meta-matrix as input. From this input the tool calculates measures that describe the relationships and ties among the entities. ORA contains over 50 network and node level measures which are categorized by the type of risk they detect (1).
Procedures: Following approval from UDOH’s Institutional Review Board, we analyzed records from 629 deidentified pertussis patients from the UT-NEDSS database from January 2011 to December 2011. The test data included demographics and epidemiological information. We used Excel to create .csv data files, uploaded the data into ORA, and displayed the data in meta-matrices consisting of nodes (cases/contacts) and edges (relationships). We used ORA’s visualizer to check for data-entry errors before performing the network analysis.
Data Analysis: ORA’s centrality measures (degree, closeness, betweenness, hub, and eigenvector) were used to identify geographic locations with high infection rates and the patients who were central to sustaining the outbreak. Next, we applied a concor algorithm to find groups in the meta-network that might be hard to spot visually. Visualizations were used to supplement the metrics.
Results
The ORA analysis identified 5 individuals who were central to perpetuating the outbreak in that their centrality measures were higher than other patients in the network. The index patient (Fig 1) was traced back to Utah County and was linked to 6 direct contacts in the same county and several indirect ties in adjacent counties. The individual was highly connected to others within the network (hub centrality = 1.41 and eigenvector centrality = 1.00). Salt Lake County had the highest number of cases, followed by Utah County and Weber County. The concor analysis revealed hidden networks, including a cluster of patients grouped by age group and case status (Fig 2).
Conclusions
The ORA was found to be a valuable tool for supporting pertussis outbreak management and contact tracing. Although network analysis is relatively new to public health, it can increase public health’s understanding of how patterns of social relationships can aid or inhibit the spread of communicable diseases and provide the information needed to target intervention efforts effectively.
PMCID: PMC3692920
Surveillance; Informatics; Social Network Analysis
18.  Global health opportunities within pediatric subspecialty fellowship training programs: surveying the virtual landscape 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:88.
Background
There is growing interest in global health among medical trainees. Medical schools and residencies are responding to this trend by offering global health opportunities within their programs. Among United States (US) graduating pediatric residents, 40% choose to subspecialize after residency training. There is limited data, however, regarding global health opportunities within traditional post-residency, subspecialty fellowship training programs. The objectives of this study were to explore the availability and type of global health opportunities within Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited pediatric subspecialty fellowship training programs, as noted by their online report, and to document change in these opportunities over time.
Methods
The authors performed a systematic online review of ACGME-accredited fellowship training programs within a convenience sample of six US pediatric subspecialties. Utilizing two data sources, the American Medical Association-Fellowship and Residency Electronic Interactive Database Access (AMA-FREIDA) and individual program websites, all programs were coded for global health opportunities and opportunity types were stratified into predefined categories. Comparisons were made between 2008 and 2011 using Fisher exact test. All analyses were conducted using SAS Software v. 9.3 (SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC).
Results
Of the 355 and 360 programs reviewed in 2008 and 2011 respectively, there was an increase in total number of programs listing global health opportunities on AMA-FREIDA (16% to 23%, p=0.02) and on individual program websites (8% to 16%, p=0.004). Nearly all subspecialties had an increased percentage of programs offering global health opportunities on both data sources; although only critical care experienced a significant increase (p=0.04, AMA-FREIDA). The types of opportunities differed across all subspecialties.
Conclusions
Global health opportunities among ACGME-accredited pediatric subspecialty fellowship programs are limited, but increasing as noted by their online report. The availability and types of these opportunities differ by pediatric subspecialty.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-88
PMCID: PMC3691626  PMID: 23787005
Global health; Pediatrics; Graduate medical education; Subspecialty; Fellowship training
19.  Implementation of a Mobile-Based Surveillance System in Saudi Arabia for the 2009 Hajj 
Objective
To develop and implement a mobile-based disease surveillance system in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for the 2009 Hajj; to strengthen public health preparedness for the H1N1 Influenza A pandemic.
Introduction
The Hajj is considered to be the largest mass gathering to date, attracting an estimated 2.5 million Muslims from more than 160 countries annually (1). The H1N1 Influenza A pandemic of 2009 generated a global wave of concern among public health departments that resulted in the institution of preventive measures to limit transmission of the disease. Meanwhile, the pandemic amplified an urgent need for more innovative disease surveillance tools to combat disease outbreaks.
A collaborative effort between the KSA Ministry of Health (MOH) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was initiated to implement and deploy an informatics-based mobile solution to provide early detection and reporting of disease outbreaks during the 2009 Hajj. The mobile-based tool aimed to improve the efficiency of disease case reporting, recognize potential outbreaks, and enhance the MOH’s operational effectiveness in deploying resources (2).
Methods
We designed a case-based system consisting of a mobile-based data collection toolkit and interactive map-based user interface to perform geospatial analysis and visualization. A train-the-trainer approach was adapted to provide training to the KSA MOH.
Results
More than 200 public health and information and communication technology (ICT) professionals were trained, and 100 mobile devices were deployed during the 2009 Hajj. Nine diseases and conditions that were considered as highest priority during the Hajj were under surveillance, including H1N1 Influenza A and Influenza-like Illness.
Pilot testing of the system was conducted during the first week of Ramadan and a modified system was fully operational during the Hajj. Data collected on smartphones were sent to the system via a secured network. The data were processed immediately and visualized on highly interactive maps with local and global views.
Conclusions
Effective public health decision-making requires timely and accurate information from a variety of sources. Mobile-based systems (e.g., personal digital assistants and smartphones) for data collection, transmission, reporting, and analyses provide a faster, easier, and cheaper means to communicate standardized and shareable public health data for decision-making (3). Mobile-based systems have been recognized as a quick and effective response solution to mass gatherings and recommended as data gathering and communication systems with geographical information system (GIS) capability (2). This paper explored the development and implementation of the Global Positioning System/ Geographic Information System (GPS/GIS) enabled mobile-based disease surveillance system as a feasible and effective way to support and strengthen preparedness for H1N1 Influenza A during the 2009 Hajj.
Mobile computing technology can be utilized to provide rapid and accurate data collection for public health decision-making during mass gatherings. The GIS-based interactive mapping tool provided a pioneering example of the power of a geographically based internet-accessible surveillance system with real-time data visualization. The technical challenges in the process of implementation and in the field were also identified.
A need now exists for a comprehensive and comparative review of parameters such as handheld device cost, training required, and system evaluations because selecting the appropriate software/hardware and system remains a challenge not only to public health professionals, but to the development and application of informatics technology as well.
PMCID: PMC3692784
Mobile Technology; GIS/GPS; Mass Gatherings; Surveillance System; Public Health Preparedness
20.  O’ Surgery Case Log Data, Where Art Thou? 
Background
The American College of Surgeons Case Log (ACS Case Log) represents a data system that satisfies the American Board of Surgery (ABS) Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, yet has broad data fields for surgical subspecialties. Using the ACS Case Log, we have developed a method of data capture, categorization, and reporting of acute care surgery fellows' experiences.
Study Design
In July 2010, our Acute Care Surgery fellowship required our fellows to log their clinical experiences into the ACS Case Log. Cases were entered similar to billable documentation rules. Keywords were entered that specified institutional services and/or resuscitation types. This data was exported in comma separated value format, de-identified, and structured by Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes relevant to acute care surgery and sub-stratified by fellow and/or fellow year.
Results
Fifteen report types were created consisting of operative experience by service, procedure by major category (cardiothoracic, vascular, solid organ, abdominal wall, hollow viscus, and soft tissue), total resuscitations, ultrasound, airway, Intensive Care Unit services, basic neurosurgery, and basic orthopaedics. Results are viewable via a secure web application, accessible nationally, and exportable to many formats.
Conclusions
Utilizing the ACS Case Log satisfies the ABS MOC program requirements and provides a method for monitoring and reporting acute care surgery fellow experiences. This system is flexible to accommodate the needs of surgical subspecialties and their training programs. As documentation requirements expand, efficient clinical documentation is a must for the busy surgeon. Although, our data entry and processing method has the immediate capacity for acute care surgery fellowships nationwide, multiple larger decisions regarding national case log systems should be encouraged.
doi:10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2012.04.017
PMCID: PMC3423479  PMID: 22634118
21.  MED31/437: A Web-based Diabetes Management System: DiabNet 
Introduction
A web-based system (DiabNet) was developed to provide instant access to the Electronic Diabetes Records (EDR) for end-users, and real-time information for healthcare professionals to facilitate their decision-making. It integrates portable glucometer, handheld computer, mobile phone and Internet access as a combined telecommunication and mobile computing solution for diabetes management. Methods:
Active Server Pages (ASP) embedded with advanced ActiveX controls and VBScript were developed to allow remote data upload, retrieval and interpretation. Some advisory and Internet-based learning features, together with a video teleconferencing component make DiabNet web site an informative platform for Web-consultation.
Results
The evaluation of the system is being implemented among several UK Internet diabetes discussion groups and the Diabetes Day Centre at the Guy's & St. Thomas' Hospital. Many positive feedback are received from the web site demonstrating DiabNet is an advanced web-based diabetes management system which can help patients to keep closer control of self-monitoring blood glucose remotely, and is an integrated diabetes information resource that offers telemedicine knowledge in diabetes management.
Discussion
In summary, DiabNet introduces an innovative online diabetes management concept, such as online appointment and consultation, to enable users to access diabetes management information without time and location limitation and security concerns.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1.suppl1.e68
PMCID: PMC1761784
Web-based; ActiveX ; Diabetes Management; Decision-Making; Mobile Computing
22.  Handheld Optical Coherence Tomography Scanner for Primary Care Diagnostics 
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.
doi:10.1109/TBME.2010.2096816
PMCID: PMC3214662  PMID: 21134801
Handheld imaging scanner; optical coherence tomography (OCT); primary care medicine
23.  Handheld computers for self-administered sensitive data collection: A comparative study in Peru 
Background
Low-cost handheld computers (PDA) potentially represent an efficient tool for collecting sensitive data in surveys. The goal of this study is to evaluate the quality of sexual behavior data collected with handheld computers in comparison with paper-based questionnaires.
Methods
A PDA-based program for data collection was developed using Open-Source tools. In two cross-sectional studies, we compared data concerning sexual behavior collected with paper forms to data collected with PDA-based forms in Ancon (Lima).
Results
The first study enrolled 200 participants (18–29 years). General agreement between data collected with paper format and handheld computers was 86%. Categorical variables agreement was between 70.5% and 98.5% (Kappa: 0.43–0.86) while numeric variables agreement was between 57.1% and 79.8% (Spearman: 0.76–0.95). Agreement and correlation were higher in those who had completed at least high school than those with less education. The second study enrolled 198 participants. Rates of responses to sensitive questions were similar between both kinds of questionnaires. However, the number of inconsistencies (p = 0.0001) and missing values (p = 0.001) were significantly higher in paper questionnaires.
Conclusion
This study showed the value of the use of handheld computers for collecting sensitive data, since a high level of agreement between paper and PDA responses was reached. In addition, a lower number of inconsistencies and missing values were found with the PDA-based system. This study has demonstrated that it is feasible to develop a low-cost application for handheld computers, and that PDAs are feasible alternatives for collecting field data in a developing country.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-11
PMCID: PMC2323371  PMID: 18366687
24.  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
25.  Critical care trainees’ career goals and needs: A Canadian survey 
Designing an effective training program requires information regarding the needs, capability and aspirations of its users. Prompted by the low career satisfaction levels shown by critical care medicine (CCM) clinicians in a previous survey, and a lack of data regarding the career goals of CCM trainees in Canadian training programs, this survey-based study, which had an exemplary response rate of 85%, examined career expectations, and the barriers and enablers to career goals among individuals from adult and pediatric CCM programs across Canada.
BACKGROUND:
For training programs to meet the needs of trainees, an understanding of their career goals and expectations is required.
OBJECTIVES:
Canadian critical care medicine (CCM) trainees were surveyed to understand their career goals in terms of clinical work, research, teaching, administration and management; and to identify their perceptions regarding the support they need to achieve their goals.
METHODS:
The online survey was sent to all trainees registered in a Canadian adult or pediatric CCM program. It documented the participants’ demographics; their career expectations; the perceived barriers and enablers to achieve their career goals; and their perceptions relating to their chances of developing a career in different areas.
RESULTS:
A response rate of 85% (66 of 78) was obtained. The majority expected to work in an academic centre. Only approximately one-third (31%) estimated their chances of obtaining a position in CCM as >75%. The majority planned to devote 25% to 75% of their time performing clinical work and <25% in education, research or administration. The trainees perceived that there were limited employment opportunities. Networking and having specialized expertise were mentioned as being facilitators for obtaining employment. They expressed a need for more protected time, resources and mentorship for nonclinical tasks during training.
CONCLUSION:
CCM trainees perceived having only limited support to help them to achieve their career goals and anticipate difficulties in obtaining successful employment. They identified several gaps that could be addressed by training programs, including more mentoring in the areas of research, education and administration.
PMCID: PMC4128527  PMID: 24724149
Career; Critical care; Education; Needs assessment; Survey; Training

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