Are you using a PDA in your practice?

December 1, 2005

If so, you are not alone. More than 50% of doctors younger than 35 in developed countries use a personal digital assistant, according to a review in The Lancet (10/1/05). The review stated that physicians used PDAs in daily clinical practice most often for drug reference (80%). They also used it for scheduling (67%), medical calculations (61%), prescription writing (8%), and billing (4%).

If so, you are not alone. More than 50% of doctors younger than 35 in developed countries use a personal digital assistant, according to a review in The Lancet (10/1/05). The review stated that physicians used PDAs in daily clinical practice most often for drug reference (80%). They also used it for scheduling (67%), medical calculations (61%), prescription writing (8%), and billing (4%).

But is the technology worth it? According to the Wall Street Journal (10/10/05), PDAs may help physicians become more efficient. They can use the technology to manage their appointments, check a patient's medical history or insurance coverage, and send orders for prescription medications to pharmacies. PDAs do not seem to get in the way of the patient-physician encounter, either: Physicians can use the handheld devices to access test results (rather than waiting for written results), to educate patients, or to make safe diagnoses away from the office or hospital.

While the size of the PDA can be advantageous-allowing the physician to be mobile with patient and medical information-it also has some disadvantages. The Lancet noted, for example, that users complained of the devices' limited memory. The small screen size may also hinder the physician's ability to review extensive medical tests or large files such as cardiology charts, according to The New York Times. And, unless the PDA is integrated with other information technology, using the device may be a waste of time: After all, the device will have limited usefulness if it can help you diagnose a patient but is not integrated with an application that tracks patients' medical records.