reuters.com | Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:55 AM ET166
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON (Reuters) - Personal digital assistants (PDAs) could change the way healthcare is delivered in the future by providing doctors with easy access to patient data and the latest information on treatment.
Palm pilots and other hand-held computers were originally designed as personal organizers but they are becoming increasingly popular with doctors, medical students and even patients to improve the quality of care and safety.
"The most commonly used clinical application is drug reference, so far. But it has gone beyond just looking up drugs and dosages and running interaction checks," Dr Daniel Baumgart, of the Charite Medical School of the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, said in an interview.
PDAs with bar code scanners already exist which allow doctors to scan a patient's barcode bracelet to access their record, current medications and medication history, according to Baumgart.
"You could improve or make sure the patient gets the right drug, at the right time and at the right dose," said Baumgart who reviewed the role of the technology in medicine in a report in The Lancet medical journal.
The devices could also allow doctors to access medical information from virtually anywhere due to the extended bandwidth of cellular telephone networks or high speed wireless institutional networks in hospitals.
This would eliminate the need to find a find a patient's chart, X-ray or a computer to get to electronic information.
They could also allow doctors to collect data or to take photographs of patient injuries or ailments for documentation, teaching purposes and to improve care.
"Future PDAs may evolve into true expert systems that access information from many sources simultaneously, match it with the patient's current medical record and past medical history, apply prediction rules, calculate clinical equations and integrate it into an overall information package to help the doctor make a sound, evidence-based decision," he added.
"This might be the future, but that needs to be developed," said Baumgart.
PDAs won't replace mainframe or desktop work stations but they will give doctors additional means to access information from anywhere.
"The future of information exchange is digital and wireless," he added.