Survey: PDAs reduce medical errors for emergency physicians

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Emergency room physicians are avoiding a range of medical errors using personal digital assistants (PDAs), according to a new survey conducted by MedAmerica Mutual, a physician-directed, liability insurer that covers emergency physicians and their medical groups.
   
Approximately 65 percent of respondents said that while using a PDA, they had avoided a dosing error, while 58 percent noted a dosing frequency error, 25 percent a drug error, 24 percent a therapeutic error and 18 percent another type of error.
   
The survey was conducted over the course of 2003 - 2004 with MedAmerica's insured physicians in an ongoing effort to assess the impact of the Mutual's support of handheld technology. In 2001, the insurer provided its physicians with PDAs bundled with Epocrates Rx Pro drug reference software. Nearly 500 PDAs were distributed.
   
For what are the mobile computing devices most commonly used? The study determined that more than 66 percent of the 224 respondents use their PDA to look up information and perform medical calculations on every shift, with an additional 15 percent using their PDAs on more than half of their shifts.
   
When asked to describe how the PDA was used in their clinical practice, 93 percent said as a drug reference, 56 percent a medical calculator and 38 percent as a medical reference.