More than half the doctors in the United States use handhelds, and among residents and students the percentage is even greater. A new survey of more than 900 doctors who use handheld computers shows significant results about doctors’ increasing reliance on their handhelds and their impact on daily activities. More than 85% of the survey respondents pointed to handhelds as helping to reduce the number of medical errors, with more than 50% of doctors indicating handheld use reduces their medical errors by more than 4% or 5%.
The National Academy of Science – Institute of Medicine says that medical errors cost the healthcare system $2 billion a year. If the doctors in this survey are correct, more doctors using handhelds could prevent more than $100 million in preventable drug errors alone.
Respondents to the survey stated that handheld use provides significant benefits by allowing them to spend more time with patients, while still treating more each day, and by improving the overall quality of patient care. Specific results include:
- More than 88% of doctors use their handhelds at least four times a day, with 15% using their handhelds more than 25 times a day.
- When asked how they use their handhelds, 72% of doctors reported they rely on their handheld for treatment purposes–primarily using it for drug references, clinical references, drug interaction guides or hospital treatment guidelines.
- Almost 90% of the doctors concluded that handhelds help them provide better care.
- Over 85% of physician respondents agreed that by using a handheld they had decreased the number of potential medical errors. And more than 50% communicated that by using a handheld they were able to eliminate over 4% of medical errors.
- When asked to quantify the specific benefits handhelds bring to their daily practice, almost 20% of respondents concluded that handheld use enables them to treat at least three more patients a day, with another 20% of respondents concluding that they can treat 1 – 2 additional patients per day.
- Doctors do not just rely on one reference for their handheld. More than 70% of doctors have at least three medical references on their handheld and 22% have more than eight references.
- Less than 10% of medical professionals have their handheld software integrated with the larger hospital IT enterprise, signifying an area where there is still room for significant growth.
The survey was conducted by Skyscape, Inc, a provider of enterprise-wide mobile medical and nursing reference solutions.
“The survey results reinforced what we knew of the benefits PDAs bring medical professionals, but the impact PDAs have when it comes to reducing medical errors, and improving efficiencies, exceeded our expectations,” said RJ Mathew, vice president, marketing and business development for Skyscape. “The survey clearly shows physicians have moved into a mainstream reliance on PDAs and medical software for PDAs. The results show that just like the stethoscope, the PDA is increasingly becoming an integral tool in doctors’ daily practice and by integrating medical references we can enable doctors and their enterprises to realize even greater benefits.”