Monday, October 5, 2009

PDA Reference Services @ The [Health] Library

Paula Saraiva / PDA Reference Services @ the Library / GMS Medizin - Bibliothek - Information /  2008 / Vol. 8(2)  / ISSN 1865-066X / Doc13.

Abstract > There is an increasing need felt by the health library users for obtaining accurate, up to date, evidence-based and mobile scientific information in their daily clinical practice. The need to reduce diagnostic errors, save time and achieve the best decision-making for their patients, has became a serious problem to this group of health professionals, claiming more often to have close to them, a portable library open 24 hours a day.

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) have been successfully introduced into the health libraries environment and give the users the opportunity to have the most recent and scientific information “in the palm of their hands”. The main objective of this study was to contribute to the implementation of user reference services based in PDAs, in Health Libraries in order to guarantee our health professional users, autonomy and mobility in their work places near the patients. We aim to know, if the European Health Libraries, are fully aware of the strengths and power of these new type of PDA-based services, giving them the chance to offer the adjusted help to this new user needs.

The methodology used is based on online surveys, submitted to Portuguese and European Health Libraries, and by interviews conducted with a group of selected health expert PDA users in medicine. We concluded that using PDAs is the future in medicine and the new mission of health libraries is to offer services based on mobile technologies such as PDAs, if they want to serve their users with excellence.

Keywords > PDA, Personal Digital Assistant, handheld computer, Palm, PocketPC, mobile library, electronic medical information, medical informatics, mobile health technology, health libraries survey


Conclusion > PDA mobility, portability and ease of information management combined with free clinical applications will contribute to the increasing use of mobile technologies in hospitals, clinical centers, medical schools and health libraries.  We can almost foresee that in the future a PDA will be equally important to doctors as a stethoscope. Using PDAs in daily clinical practice will have some important advantages for the user:

• Increase of productivity due to mobility, portability and very fast access to relevant clinical information

• Better communication and interaction between doctor and patient

• Broad coverage of health content available for PDAs (almost all medical specialities)

• Immediate assistance near the patient (best evidencebased clinical information, guidelines, support for decision-making, electronic drug prescribtion, etc.)

• Decrease of medical errors and increase of quality in patient care services

• Faster and better decision-making that can save lifes, e.g., fast location of a poison antidote.

• Better patient data management integrated with clinical results.

Vaccaro ...  thinks that PDAs are very useful in the clinical practice environment: “There's a good reason to hold onto your PDA if you are a physician: It's a terrific information manager. By downloading software to your PDA from the Internet, you can access a variety of medical textbooks, calculators and evidence-based disease-management tools at any time from any place. Literally thousands of programs are available for your choosing. As a point-of-care reference, your PDA is worth its weight in gold”. Furthermore there are already good points in using PDAs in medical education:

• Easy communication and interaction between students and teachers by sharing documents.

• Efficient monitoring and evaluation of student's clinical experiencesBetter management of investigation activities (organization of different scientific and educational materials,e.g., diagrams, images, collections, etc.)

• More efficient learning and training near the patient (more detailed patient reports available because all the gleaned information at the point-of-care is managed in real time using available PDA health resources)

• Multimedia training and telemonitoring (e.g. wireless real time transmission of an surgical intervention)

• Good support to clinical investigation groups (eg. fast and easy interchange of documents and information between PDAs).

From the results of our questionnaires and interviews we can conclude that most of the health libraries in Portugal and Europe agree that implementation of PDA services could ad value to the library's reference services in the future. Missing technical infrastructure is not the main constraint to the implementation but lack of staff training to give user assistance, the thight library budget (expenses for training and acquisition of PDA equipment and software) and concerns about security of confidential data.

At present using PDAs in medicine is an irreversible process. Like always the health libraries' mission is to follow the evolution of emerging new technologies and to apply new services in order to provide excellent services to their patrons. Out of this librarians have to develop and train skills constantly to expand their IT competency, marketing sensitivity, evaluation competency, curiosity and creativity.

The most valuable PDA services that libraries should offer to users are:

• Homepages with PDA content

• Training sessions

• PDA software licensing and discounts

Health Libraries should carefully plan the implementation of these new services by:

• Identifing PDA user’s profile and type of need

• Creating technical support and encourage team work (define procedures and achieve knowledge, sensitize the institution for this investment)

• Starting a pilot group

• Project communication and marketing inside the organization

• Evaluating the project to plan new actions

PDA services in health libraries will be an important opportunity of new services for users who need to make the best clinical decisions in front of their patients. They require absolutely essential help from health libraries to supply their PDAs with the most relevant and up to date clinical information. Health librarians should have the courage to bear up this trend if they want to play an important role in their user’s professional life.

Cuddy ... says that certain user groups “specially in health care and medicine, have embraced PDAs, and students in particular have embraced mobile technologies. As librarians, we need to provide assistance to these users as well as provide materials in formats that can be readily accessed by their mobile devices. Librarians are often seen as technology leaders on campuses and in communities. We need to continue to offer services that take advantage of new technologies as a service to our users and to benefit our own workflow. It is time to embrace PDA if you have not already done so and time for PDA users to become better acquainted with what PDA has to offer.”

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