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Critical Care  2001 

Handheld computers in critical care

DOI: 10.1186/cc1028

Keywords: computer communication networks, medical informatics, medical technology, microcomputers, point-of-care technology

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Abstract:

Palm III series handheld devices were given to the ICU team, each installed with medical reference information, schedules, and contact numbers. Users underwent a 1-hour training session introducing the hardware and software. Various patient data management applications were assessed during the study period. Qualitative assessment of the benefits, drawbacks, and suggestions was performed by an independent company, using focus groups. An objective comparison between a paper and electronic handheld textbook was achieved using clinical scenario tests.During the 6-month study period, the 20 physicians and 6 paramedical staff who used the handheld devices found them convenient and functional but suggested more comprehensive training and improved search facilities. Comparison of the handheld computer with the conventional paper text revealed equivalence. Access to computerized patient information improved communication, particularly with regard to long-stay patients, but changes to the software and the process were suggested.The introduction of this technology was well received despite differences in users' familiarity with the devices. Handheld computers have potential in the ICU, but systems need to be developed specifically for the critical-care environment.The rapid development of computing technology has had a major impact on health care, particularly in technology-oriented areas such as critical care. Electronic patient records require a major commitment by the institution, in hardware, software, training, and support. In many places, bedside care of patients still relies on paper records or nonintegrated computer systems that do not take full advantage of their data-management capabilities [1]. Even where there are advanced computerized systems, the bedside clinician may still rely on written notes for patient management and billing, and refer to pocket textbooks or printed management algorithms.For busy clinicians, the use of computers for hospital-based clinical c

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