Physicians Praise Handheld Computers
In a special issue of BMJ, physicians encourage openness to new technologies.Many physicians would never want to part with their handheld computers, though they report very different reasons for their enthusiasm. Thats according to an article in last months BMJ, a peer-reviewed periodical for physicians. However, the researchers also found that many doctors are uncomfortable with a new technology and fear it may blunt their skills or encourage overdependence. Other articles in the same issue include commentary that handheld devices might make useful "stepping stones" for getting physicians acclimated to new technologies and a commentary by a young doctor extolling the convenience of handheld devices during medical rounds, particularly the search functions to find crucial information about drugs or individual patients. The commentary also describes software programs physicians can use on handheld devices.
The research paper is based on a series of focus groups of 54 U.S. generalists and internists. Participation was voluntary but included professionals who used handheld devices all the time, who used them only in certain "niche" settings, and who never used them. According to the authors, about a quarter of physicians currently use mobile devices; by 2005, that figure should be up to one half. There was a general consensus among the group of physicians that handheld devices and other technologies are becoming ubiquitous in health care, a trend some attributed to younger doctors entering the field with much higher proficiency in using computers. Common uses for handheld devices reported in the paper include the following: