In hospitals and similar settings, handheld technology is being used as a teaching tool for medical students, paramedics and nurses, and for overall patient education. In addition, handhelds are fast becoming an important element for conducting effective clinical research studies, making the data collection processes more efficient.
"Palm handhelds have experienced strong growth in the Canadian health care industry last year, a trend which appears to be gaining momentum", stated Palm Canada President and General Manager Michael Moskowitz. "Handhelds are being used to educate, train, reduce errors, enhance practice efficiencies, manage supply orders, and store and quickly retrieve large amounts of medical information."
At Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Palm handhelds are being used to provide up-to-date medical information to physicians in the hospital's Critical Care Unit, and to monitor and log the educational experiences of surgical interns and medical trainees. Doctors working in the Critical Care Unit have been using Palm handhelds to collect and share patient information.
Palm handhelds aid in the transfer of information from one doctor to the next when shift changes occur, and with applications such as mobile drug databases now in use, Palm handhelds have become an indispensable tool for the proper and timely administering of drugs. Currently, Mount Sinai's pharmacy is equipped with Palm m500 handhelds and staff are evaluating four handheld databases, including the drug-reference database ePocrates Rx.
In addition, 75 surgical postgraduate trainees are using Palm handhelds to document their educational experience and log procedures they have conducted over a two-year period, downloading these via the Internet to a central database. This allows individual trainees to access their data and enables the programme director to follow the trainees' progress and assess which hospital provides the best learning experience.
"At present, Palm handhelds have significant potential to improve access to information and overcome many of the problems with communications which plague health care delivery", stated Dr. Stephen Lapinsky, associate director of the Intensive Care Unit at Mount Sinai Hospital. "I have a number of medical reference databases on my Palm handheld. Even my office scheduling is linked to my handheld, as well as to my assistant's handheld."
With the increased demand for medical solutions, Canadian developers are actively creating portable databases, reference texts, diagnostic aids and conversion keepers. For example, Metaworks Inc., based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has developed a series of health care applications which encompass a selection of calculators, analysis engines and reference tools. The company has made demo versions of many of its applications available for free download including the following:
- Apache II, a prognostic scoring method which measures the severity of an illness in critically ill patients;
- Respirology, which collects data in order to facilitate the selection of patients for research-study purposes;
- ABG Decoder, which allows users to interpret blood-gas values;
- Top Flow, to quickly calculate cardiac outputs for a range of cardiac indexes using patient height and weight; and
- Mantis Rx, to assist pharmaceutical sales representatives with collecting and managing product-related information and to provide product education to doctors and pharmacists.