Purpose: Handheld computer technology provides a unique opportunity for health care professionals to access real time or near real time patient information and evidence-based resources at the point-of-care. The purpose of this study was to assess one physician's experience using acute pain assessment software on a personal digital assistant (PDA) to assess patients on an acute pain management service (APMS).
Methods: Using a historical control and a "time and motion" study design, comparisons were made on acute pain assessment time and comprehensiveness when patient assessments are documented on a PDA vs the current paper-based method.
Results: The study physician (a PDA-user) reported feeling comfortable with the assessment software after five patient assessments. PDA assessments were more likely to contain documentation regarding pain and side effects (e.g., nausea, pruritus, hypotension) than the paper assessments. The median time of the "assessment only" component of the patient encounter was 53 sec longer using the PDA compared to paper (P < 0.00), however, the median "total encounter" (chart review, assessment, documentation) time was 74 sec shorter using the PDA vs paper (P < 0.00).
Discussion: The findings of this preliminary study suggest that the PDA is a reliable tool that meets the data management requirements within an APMS setting. This study found that patient assessments documented using acute pain software developed for use on a PDA were as efficient and content-rich as paper assessments. The PDA may even enhance the efficiency of the patient assessment process through the provision of more comprehensive digital data for research, clinical, and administrative needs.