Assessing medical residents' usage and perceived needs for personal digital assistants

James R. Barrett, Scott M. Strayer, Jane R. Schubart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

81 Scopus citations

Abstract

Health care professionals need information delivery tools for accessing information at the point of patient care. Personal digital assistants (PDAs), or hand-held devices demonstrate great promise as point of care information devices. An earlier study [The Constellation Project: experience and evaluation of personal digital assistants in the clinical environment, in: Proceedings of the 19th Annual Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care, 1995, 678] on the use of PDAs at the point of care found that hardware constraints, such as memory capability limited their usefulness, however, they were used frequently for accessing medical references and drug information [The Constellation Project: experience and evaluation of personal digital assistants in the clinical environment, in: Proceedings of the 19th Annual Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care, 1995, 678]. Since this study was completed in 1995, hand-held computer technology has advanced rapidly, and between 26 and 50% of physicians currently use PDAs [Physician's use of hand-helds increases from 15% in 1999 to 26% in 2001: Harris interactive poll results, Harris Poll. 8-24-2002 (electronic citation); ACP-ASIM survey finds nearly half of U.S. members use hand-held computers: ACP-ASIM press release, American College of Physicians, 9-3-2002 (electronic citation)]. This use appears higher among residents, with one recent study finding that over two-thirds of family practice residencies use hand-held computers in their training programs [J. Am. Med. Inform. Assoc. 9 (1) (2002) 80]. In this study, we systematically evaluate PDA usage by residents in our institution using quantitative and qualitative methods. Our evaluation included a brief on-line survey of 88 residents in seven residency programs including primary care and specialty practices. The surveys were completed between 26 October 2001 and 30 April 2002. Follow-up interviews with 15 of the surveyed residents were then conducted between 24 April 2002 and 13 May 2002. The original contributions of this study are the evaluation of residents in primary and specialty programs and evaluation of both medical application software and the conventional personal organizational software (such as calendars and to-do lists). This evaluation was also conducted using significantly advanced hardware and software compared with previous studies [The Constellation Project: experience and evaluation of personal digital assistants in the clinical environment, in: Proceedings of the 19th Annual Symposium on Computer Applications in Medical Care, 1995, 678]. Results of our survey and follow-up interviews of residents showed most residents use PDAs daily, regardless of practice or whether their program encourages PDAs. Uses include commercial medical references and personal organization software, such as calendars and address books. Concerns and drawbacks mentioned by these residents included physical size of the PDA and the potential for catastrophic data loss. Another issue raised by our results suggests that security and Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliance need to be addressed, in part by resident education about securing patient data on PDAs. Overall, PDAs may become even more widely used if two issues can be addressed: (a) providing secure clinical data for the current patients of a given resident, and (b) allaying concerns of catastrophic data loss from their PDAs (e.g. by educating residents about procedures to recover information from PDA backup files).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-34
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Volume73
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics

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