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1.  Prospective, randomized evaluation of a personal digital assistant-based research tool in the emergency department 
Background
Personal digital assistants (PDA) offer putative advantages over paper for collecting research data. However, there are no data prospectively comparing PDA and paper in the emergency department. The aim of this study was to prospectively compare the performance of PDA and paper enrollment instruments with respect to time required and errors generated.
Methods
We randomized consecutive patients enrolled in an ongoing prospective study to having their data recorded either on a PDA or a paper data collection instrument. For each method, we recorded the total time required for enrollment, and the time required for manual transcription (paper) onto a computer database. We compared data error rates by examining missing data, nonsensical data, and errors made during the transcription of paper forms. Statistical comparisons were performed by Kruskal-Wallis and Poisson regression analyses for time and errors, respectively.
Results
We enrolled 68 patients (37 PDA, 31 paper). Two of 31 paper forms were not available for analysis. Total data gathering times, inclusive of transcription, were significantly less for PDA (6:13 min per patient) compared to paper (9:12 min per patient; p < 0.001). There were a total of 0.9 missing and nonsense errors per paper form compared to 0.2 errors per PDA form (p < 0.001). An additional 0.7 errors per paper form were generated during transcription. In total, there were 1.6 errors per paper form and 0.2 errors per PDA form (p < 0.001).
Conclusion
Using a PDA-based data collection instrument for clinical research reduces the time required for data gathering and significantly improves data integrity.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-3
PMCID: PMC2245927  PMID: 18205902
2.  Pretest probability assessment derived from attribute matching 
Background
Pretest probability (PTP) assessment plays a central role in diagnosis. This report compares a novel attribute-matching method to generate a PTP for acute coronary syndrome (ACS). We compare the new method with a validated logistic regression equation (LRE).
Methods
Eight clinical variables (attributes) were chosen by classification and regression tree analysis of a prospectively collected reference database of 14,796 emergency department (ED) patients evaluated for possible ACS. For attribute matching, a computer program identifies patients within the database who have the exact profile defined by clinician input of the eight attributes. The novel method was compared with the LRE for ability to produce PTP estimation <2% in a validation set of 8,120 patients evaluated for possible ACS and did not have ST segment elevation on ECG. 1,061 patients were excluded prior to validation analysis because of ST-segment elevation (713), missing data (77) or being lost to follow-up (271).
Results
In the validation set, attribute matching produced 267 unique PTP estimates [median PTP value 6%, 1st–3rd quartile 1–10%] compared with the LRE, which produced 96 unique PTP estimates [median 24%, 1st–3rd quartile 10–30%]. The areas under the receiver operating characteristic curves were 0.74 (95% CI 0.65 to 0.82) for the attribute matching curve and 0.68 (95% CI 0.62 to 0.77) for LRE.
The attribute matching system categorized 1,670 (24%, 95% CI = 23–25%) patients as having a PTP < 2.0%; 28 developed ACS (1.7% 95% CI = 1.1–2.4%). The LRE categorized 244 (4%, 95% CI = 3–4%) with PTP < 2.0%; four developed ACS (1.6%, 95% CI = 0.4–4.1%).
Conclusion
Attribute matching estimated a very low PTP for ACS in a significantly larger proportion of ED patients compared with a validated LRE.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-5-26
PMCID: PMC1201143  PMID: 16095534
3.  Prospective study of clinician-entered research data in the Emergency Department using an Internet-based system after the HIPAA Privacy Rule 
Background
Design and test the reliability of a web-based system for multicenter, real-time collection of data in the emergency department (ED), under waiver of authorization, in compliance with HIPAA.
Methods
This was a phase I, two-hospital study of patients undergoing evaluation for possible pulmonary embolism. Data were collected by on-duty clinicians on an HTML data collection form (prospective e-form), populated using either a personal digital assistant (PDA) or personal computer (PC). Data forms were uploaded to a central, offsite server using secure socket protocol transfer. Each form was assigned a unique identifier, and all PHI data were encrypted, but were password-accessible by authorized research personnel to complete a follow-up e-form.
Results
From April 15, 2003-April 15 2004, 1022 prospective e-forms and 605 follow-up e-forms were uploaded. Complexities of PDA use compelled clinicians to use PCs in the ED for data entry for most forms. No data were lost and server log query revealed no unauthorized entry. Prospectively obtained PHI data, encrypted upon server upload, were successfully decrypted using password-protected access to allow follow-up without difficulty in 605 cases. Non-PHI data from prospective and follow-up forms were available to the study investigators via standard file transfer protocol.
Conclusions
Data can be accurately collected from on-duty clinicians in the ED using real-time, PC-Internet data entry in compliance with the Privacy Rule. Deidentification-reidentification of PHI was successfully accomplished by a password-protected encryption-deencryption mechanism to permit follow-up by approved research personnel.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-4-17
PMCID: PMC526297  PMID: 15479471

Results 1-3 (3)