by Galen Gruman

PDAs Get Lukewarm Reception for Accessing Medical Records

Aug 01, 20032 mins

Ohio state university (OSU) Medical Center has made a large investment in PDAs—with 1,600 Palm handhelds deployed to medical students and residents—but both medical and IT leaders remain lukewarm about them as records access devices.

Equipping the handhelds with Wi-Fi is costly and drains the device’s batteries, says Phil Skinner, director of enterprise services. So OSU has deployed about 100 infrared synchronization devices throughout the hospital. It takes about two minutes to synchronize patient data that students and residents use when making rounds; they synchronize when they arrive in the morning to get current patient data and again in the evening.

“We’ve not yet found the perfect software or hardware solution to manage these,” says Dr. Andrew Thomas. Issues include not being able to make notes directly in patient records, and the constant need to scroll.

Palm handhelds also present a special security risk: Users can turn off the password entry requirement. OSU uses XcelleNet Afaria software to turn the passwords back on when the Palms sync to the network. But the user can turn it back off again.

OSU will give new medical students the new Palm Tungstens this year, mostly to try out the new audio capability for dictation. Skinner says he’ll allow order entry on PDAs, once a new order-entry system that has PDA support is installed this fall. Then he’ll test wireless PDAs to alert staff when a patient’s lab results are out of normal ranges.

Anesthesiologists at the hospital also use Hewlett-Packard iPaq handhelds to monitor patients during surgery.