Objective: To determine whether emergency medicine (EM) resident documentation of procedures, patient encounters, and patient follow-ups improved after implementation of a personal digital assistant (PDA) hand-held recording system.
Methods: All first-year EM residents were provided a PalmV (Palm, Inc., Santa Clara, CA) PDA. A customized patient procedure and encounter program was constructed using Pendragon Forms (Pendragon Software Corporation, Libertyville, IL) and loaded into each PDA. Residents were instructed to enter information on patients who had any of 21 procedures performed or were considered to be clinically unstable. These data were downloaded to the residency coordinator's desktop computer. The mean number of procedures, encounters, and follow-ups performed per resident were then compared with those of a group of 36 historical controls from the three previous first-year resident classes who recorded the same information using a handwritten card system. Data from the historical controls were combined and the means of each group were compared by Student's t-test.
Results: Mean documentation of three procedures was significantly increased in the PDA group versus the index card system: conscious sedation 5.8 vs. 0.03 (p < 0.000005), thoracentesis 2.2 vs. 0.0 (p = 0.002), ultrasound 6.3 vs. 0.0 (p = 0.002). The mean numbers of pericardiocenteses and unstable pediatric surgical patient evaluations were significantly decreased in the hand-held group [from 1.2 to 0.4 (p = 0.03) and from 9.1 to 2.2 (p = 0.02), respectively]. Patient follow-up documentations were not statistically different between the two groups.
Conclusions: Use of a hand-held PDA was associated with an increase in first-year EM resident documentation in three of 20 procedures and a decrease in one procedure and the number of unstable surgical pediatric patient resuscitations. The overall time savings in constructing a resident procedure database, as well as the other uses of the PDAs, may make transition to a hand-held computer-based procedure log an attractive option for EM residencies.