Purpose: This study examined how frequently attending physicians and physicians in training used personal digital assistants (PDAs) for patient care and explored physicians' perceptions of the impact of PDA use on several areas of clinical decision making.
Setting/subjects: The 108 participants included 59 attending physicians and 49 physicians in training from teaching hospitals in Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
Methodology: Respondents completed a questionnaire designed to explore PDA use in a clinical setting.
Results: Eighty-seven percent of the respondents reported PDA use for patient encounters. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported frequent use, and 32% reported occasional use of a PDA for patient care. Of the frequent PDA users, 85% said PDA use had influenced their overall clinical decision making and 73% mentioned treatment alterations specifically. Approximately 60% of the participants reporting occasional PDA use indicated that the PDA had influenced their overall clinical decision making, while 54% specifically mentioned a change to their patient's treatment plan.
Discussion/conclusion: Attending physicians and physicians in training who used a PDA during patient encounters perceived that even occasional PDA use had an impact on their clinical decision making and treatment choices. Health sciences librarians are perfectly positioned to provide PDA training and assistance not only to physicians who are frequent PDA users, but also to those who are occasional users.