Medical Info At Your Fingertips

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

March 23, 2005

Fingertips, hands, palms, it's all part of the wireless revolution--and now the medical world is following this trend. Patients ask clinicians questions all of the time and now they may have more answers.

If a physician doesn't know the answer, they must look it up in their library or on the computer, but this takes time, which many clinicians don't have.

"In a typical doctor's officer, a question arises--an important question arises--in every other patient," said Bill Detmar, President of Unbound Medicine, who is partnered in this project. "Seventy percent of the time those questions are never answered."

A new service now provides thousands of answers right in the palm of the doctor's hand.

"I have a question. I take my cell phone out of my pocket. I type in two or three letters and the answer appears in 7 seconds," said Detmar.

MerckMedicus keeps health care providers up-to-date with the latest information in their field.

It takes 15 years from the time that a piece of medical information is established in literature to get out into routine practice," said Jason Lyman, physician and UVa Assistant Professor of Clinical Informatics.
"Hand-held devices store limited information, but with wireless technology the text is endless and clinicians will be able to answer patients questions immediately."

"It starts where a decision is made out with just a patient and doctor in a room and it's there where we're trying to make a difference by giving the doctor the most available information," said Detmar.

Experts say security for wireless technologies is advancing and costs are dropping, which is why the technology is catching on.

"I think the place it will catch on first is in teaching hospitals where there are a lot of residents and medical students who are already used to using hand-helds," said Lyman. "And as hand-held devices are increasing, they expect wireless features. So I think there will be a very strong push especially from younger physicians."

With the abundance of information, experts hope this will cut back on medical errors.

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