Personal Digital Assistant Use: Practical Advice for the Advanced Practice Nurse

Andrew E. Craig, MSN, FNP


Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2002;2(4) 

In This Article

Choice of Software

There are many different medical software programs available for PDAs. Software is available to track patients, provide drug information, perform laboratory calculations, or obtain a quick refresher on many common diseases. While there are many, many programs available, here are just a few helpful examples. These represent only a tiny fraction of what is available; many additional Web sites about software and PDA technology can be found in the Table. Additionally, an Internet search engine, such as Hotbot or Google, may be helpful if you are trying to find a site that deals with a particular program or area of interest. Also, PDA buyer's guides and computing magazines are available at many newsstands and bookstores; they are an excellent source of information.

To keep track of patient information, Patient Keeper is a great tool. Designed by a medical student, it is an organizer that keeps track of a list of patients you enter, along with their history and physical, review of systems, labs, and other clinical data. Patient Keeper is available as shareware (meaning you can download a free demo to try, and then purchase later); it is available for Palm OS-based PDAs only.

For drug information, a favorite is ePocrates Rx . This program provides an up-to-date, comprehensive list of drugs and essential prescribing information. The drug information is updated every time users synchronize their PDAs, which means you will always have fairly current drug information. Another feature on ePocrates Rx is the ability to check for drug interactions with a list of up to 30 drugs that you select. It also lists prices for drug products, and the latest version can incorporate multiple insurance formularies, making it that much easier to prescribe a drug that will be covered under a patient's particular insurance plan.

A companion product, ePocrates ID, lets you view empirical and specific treatment for various types of infections. You can view by "bug," drug, or anatomic location. The program seamlessly integrates with ePocrates Rx, so when you click on a drug recommended for treating a particular infection, you are automatically taken to ePocrates Rx for the particulars on prescribing that drug. Both ePocrates Rx and ePocrates ID are freeware (downloadable at no cost to you) and are available for Palm OS-based PDAs. A similar product, Tarascon's ePharmacopoeia , is also available at no cost. This electronic version of the popular pocket reference also runs under Palm OS.

For drug and lab calculations, I suggest MedCalc . This free program also runs under Palm OS, and is great for computing equations like predicted peak flow rate, pediatric fluid dosing, glomerular filtration rate, and pregnancy length. Specifying a particular area of practice, such as emergency medicine or pediatrics, can shorten the extensive list of available calculations to make it more manageable.

For a quick review of most common diseases, I recommend Griffith's 5 Minute Clinical Consult . This excellent program is indexed by disease name, medication, and ICD-9 code. Each entry contains basic information, diagnostic criteria (including differential diagnosis), treatment, medications used, follow-up required, and a miscellaneous category. This program's cost is currently listed as $64.95 and it is available in both Palm OS and Pocket PC versions.

Another useful program is PEPID. Originally written as an extensive information database for emergency physicians, PEPID now comes in several versions; each is tailored to the needs of physicians, medical students, nurses, and paramedics. This program is available by subscription, which means you pay a fee to use the software for a specified length of time (6, 12, or 24 months). After the time period has elapsed, you must renew your subscription to continue using the product. PEPID's Web site states that a 6-month subscription to PEPID-ED currently costs $69.95. The software is available for both Palm OS-based devices and Pocket PCs.


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