PDAs capture additional patient information for physicians

December 4, 2002

Gathering graphical information about a patient and integrating it with existing radiological and pathological data is easy to do if you have a PDA, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.Based on his background in radiation oncology,

Gathering graphical information about a patient and integrating it with existing radiological and pathological data is easy to do if you have a PDA, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.

Based on his background in radiation oncology, Dr. Yoshi Arai said that physicians often play limited roles in integrating the information they have with existing radiology and hospital information systems. This is often because they are only end users and don't create data, he said Wednesday at the RSNA meeting.

"Actually, physicians have a lot of information in their clinic," he said.

Yoshi showed a photograph of a cancer patient as an example. The picture highlighted the patient's physical appearance and the fact that he was in a wheelchair and carried oxygen with him. All this information was pertinent to the patient's medical record, but finding a way to present it in an organized manner could be difficult.

Yoshi then showed the audience a small personal digital assistant with a CCD camera attachment about the size of a paperback book. With the PDA, he was able to take a picture of the patient.

To make the most efficient use of the information relayed by the photo, Yoshi and colleagues also developed a relational database for graphics. Using this database, physicians can capture the information they need, such as pictures of the patient and of the pathology reports, and organize it in a manageable fashion. Text information can be added to the graphics by using a keypad on the monitor of the PDA.

The database allows the photos of the patient to be integrated with pertinent radiological studies, so that when the physician uses a stylus to tap a marked area on the patient photo, the appropriate CT scan appears on the PDA.

Once the data have been input into the PDA, the researchers can transfer that information to the hospital's computer system for storage and later distribution.

The system is meant to supplement the physician's patient report, not to replace it, Arai said. Rather than simply calling a fellow physician, doctors could send graphical information organized with the appropriate radiological and pathological data.

"I can now communicate with other physicians using extremely organized data," Arai said.