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1.  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
2.  Albumin in critical care: SAFE, but worth its salt? 
Critical Care  2004;8(5):297-299.
Intravascular fluid therapy is a common critical care intervention. However, the optimal type of resuscitation fluid, crystalloid or colloid, remains controversial. Despite the many theoretical benefits of human albumin administration in critically ill patients, there has been little evidence to support its widespread clinical use. Previous systematic reviews have led to conflicting results regarding the safety and efficacy of albumin. The recently reported Saline versus Albumin Evaluation study has provided conclusive evidence that 4% albumin is as safe as saline for resuscitation, although no overall benefit of albumin use was seen. Subgroup analysis of the albumin-treated group revealed a trend towards decreased mortality in patients with septic shock, and a trend towards increased mortality in trauma patients, especially those with traumatic brain injury. The results of these subgroups, as well as the use of higher albumin concentrations and other synthetic colloids (dextrans, starches), require rigorous evaluation in clinical trials. Finally, the Saline versus Albumin Evaluation trial represents a methodological milestone in critical care medicine, due to its size, its efficient trial design, and its logistical coordination. Future studies are still required, however, to establish a therapeutic niche for albumin and other colloids.
doi:10.1186/cc2943
PMCID: PMC1065031  PMID: 15469582
albumins; colloids; critical care; crystalloids; fluid therapy
3.  Critical care procedure logging using handheld computers 
Critical Care  2004;8(5):R336-R342.
Introduction
We conducted this study to evaluate the feasibility of implementing an internet-linked handheld computer procedure logging system in a critical care training program.
Methods
Subspecialty trainees in the Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care at the University of Toronto received and were trained in the use of Palm handheld computers loaded with a customized program for logging critical care procedures. The procedures were entered into the handheld device using checkboxes and drop-down lists, and data were uploaded to a central database via the internet. To evaluate the feasibility of this system, we tracked the utilization of this data collection system. Benefits and disadvantages were assessed through surveys.
Results
All 11 trainees successfully uploaded data to the central database, but only six (55%) continued to upload data on a regular basis. The most common reason cited for not using the system pertained to initial technical problems with data uploading. From 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, a total of 914 procedures were logged. Significant variability was noted in the number of procedures logged by individual trainees (range 13–242). The database generated by regular users provided potentially useful information to the training program director regarding the scope and location of procedural training among the different rotations and hospitals.
Conclusion
A handheld computer procedure logging system can be effectively used in a critical care training program. However, user acceptance was not uniform, and continued training and support are required to increase user acceptance. Such a procedure database may provide valuable information that may be used to optimize trainees' educational experience and to document clinical training experience for licensing and accreditation.
doi:10.1186/cc2921
PMCID: PMC1065023  PMID: 15469577
critical care; handheld computers; internet; procedure logging; training program

Results 1-3 (3)