PDA-based radiology information management goes live

July 1, 2004

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center radiology department is taking information management into its own hands, literally. Taking advantage of mobile computing platforms, the department has deployed a PDA-based radiology information management

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center radiology department is taking information management into its own hands, literally. Taking advantage of mobile computing platforms, the department has deployed a PDA-based radiology information management system.

The next step in the digital medical revolution is likely toward mobile computing, moving the power of the PC from the desktop to the handheld device. Some predict that by 2005 half of all physicians will be using PDAs as a medical informatics tool.

Mobile platforms expand the use of PDAs by offering medical professionals efficient and reliable educational and departmental information in the palms of their hands, said lead author Dr. James M. Busch, of Beth Israel's radiology department. Busch's study appeared in the July issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

"Our experience suggests that implementation of a mobile platform to facilitate distribution of time-sensitive information is a viable solution for other institutions with a departmental intranet," he said.

Even though the number of desktop PCs with both intranet and Internet access in the workplace is increasing, a PDA can provide a faster vehicle for retrieving departmental information and educational material, according to Busch.

The initial purpose of his department's PDA system was to simplify the lives of radiology residents by offering clinical and educational value in a mobile setting. The educational features available on the department's intranet include a case of the week, radiology differential diagnoses, treatment of acute reactions to contrast material, an advanced cardiac life-support review, a first-year residency guide, standard dictations, and dictation guidelines.

Clinical features include a staff and a personal call schedule, imaging protocols, physician contact information, departmental phone numbers, and an on-call pager directory.

This information is restricted to departmentally pertinent material by an institutional intranet. Capturing the most-used departmental information in a single program on a mobile device can make access to that information much more efficient, Busch said.

The cost to provide both a Clié PEG-T665C PDA (Sony) and a single 128-MB memory stick (Sony) was about $300 per resident, plus a few synchronization cradles disbursed throughout the department.

The department selected Palm OS as the initial platform because the latest units are lightweight, have expandable memory, and use a high-resolution color display. It also supported the existing Palm OS user base in the department, Busch said.

"The overwhelming positive response from residents suggests that the information contained in our program is useful in daily practice," he said.