Web sites for clinical software

The list of clinical applications provided in this article is far from exhaustive. If you’re looking for a specific handheld reference not listed or wondering if a frequently used guideline or algorithm exists in PDA format, the Web sites shown in Table 3 serve as excellent resources. These Web sites offer comprehensive listings and reviews of available handheld computer applications pertinent to patient management. Freeware and point-of-care applications are included.

Barriers to use

Providers often wonder if patient confidentiality is compromised with PDA use. When handheld technology is utilized to manage patient care through clinical decision-making, no patient information is entered into the PDA, so confidentiality is not violated. Be careful when using a handheld computer as part of an electronic medical record, however. When entering patient-identifying information (e.g., name, birth date, or identification numbers) into your PDA, think of the handheld device as a patient chart. In many hospital settings, providers are required to register their handheld computer for permission to access patient records. Encryption and password protection can be used to safeguard patient data.


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Financial barriers to PDA use can be significant for the student as well the practicing provider who doesn’t want to make an investment in software that might seldom be used. Before downloading applications (even free software), consider its potential for use. Used efficiently in the clinical setting, computer applications can have financial benefits attributable to improved patient flow, fewer errors, and patient satisfaction. Before purchasing handheld software, be aware that discounts are frequently offered to national conference attendees, as part of group purchases, and through universities. Special offers for purchasing a PDA bundled with clinical applications are available. Some companies offer trial downloads, which allow providers the opportunity to determine the application’s usefulness before finalizing their purchase.

Of course, for many providers, technology itself has inherent barriers. Anyone who has ever lost part of a document when a computer program freezes, has had trouble installing new computer software, or has had difficulty explaining a problem to technical support knows well the frustration that is inherent in using new computer tools. On a positive note, handheld applications that can be used as clinical references are not so new anymore. Companies offering clinical decision-making tools also offer technical support and have streamlined the downloading and updating processes. As the availability of software has expanded, the benefit to patient-care management has increased. Handheld applications have become a valuable resource in clinical practice.

Ms. Teall is a nurse practitioner with MinuteClinic, Ohio South, in Columbus.

References

1. Clauson KA, Polen HH, Marsh WA. Clinical decision support tools: performance of personal digital assistant versus online drug information databases. Pharmacotherapy. 2007;27:1651-1658.
2. Perkins NA, Murphy JE, Malone DC, Armstrong EP. Performance of drug-drug interaction software for personal digital assistants. Ann Pharmacother. 2006;40:850-855.
3. Lin AB. The top PDA resources for family physicians. Fam Pract Manag. 2006;13:44-46.
4. Craig AE. Personal digital assistants: practical advice for clinicians in 2007.

All electronic articles accessed May 15, 2009.