One of the most popular and widely used references on PDAs is for medication information. Medication software includes ePocrates, which offers two versions: a free, comprehensive drug guide for use on Palm OS and ePocrates Rx Pro (available for purchase) using both Palm and Windows applications. all ePocrates programs offer frequent updates; information by class or drug name; for adults or pediatrics, and drug interaction information.

Other medication programs for purchase include DrDrugs, A2ZDrugs, MosbyDrugs, and Lexi-Drugs Platinum. These programs offer a wider breadth of information than the free ePocrates, though updates must be purchased. Skyscape Inc., Hudson, Mass. (DrDrugs, A2ZDrugs), offers seamless cross-referencing with other Skyscape products. Lexi-Drugs Platinum offers information tabs to assist in finding data quickly. Drug interaction data is available, though facilitating multi-drug comparison requires the purchase of additional programs (iFacts or Druglx). This feature is important, considering the 1999 National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine report, which suggested that more deaths result from medication errors than industrial accidents.

Another prescribing consideration is cost, and most software programs offer a feature providing average prices. As some patients may not have prescription benefits, this is a great attribute. After all, when cost is an issue, medication compliance is less likely.

Some NPs use medical calculators to determine risk factors such as the Gail Model (breast CA), BMI calculator, pregnancy wheels, and others. Many are available for PDAs and can be found online.

Medical textbooks and hand-books are important resources now available on PDAs, much like a Virtual bookcase’. Software producers include Franklin Electronic publishers (http://www.franklin.com) and Skyscape (http://www.skyscape.com), and topics range from general to specialty practice. Nevertheless, virtual book-cases, like their physical counterparts, have limits to the amount they can hold.

Access to medical literature (ie: journals), plays an important role in practice. This information allows NPs to stay current with treatments, guidelines, and more. Internet access is provided by sites such as Avantgo (http:// www.avantgo.com) and JournalToGo (http://www.journaltogo.com), among others.

These programs display web documents and health care publications on the PDA. Avantgo allows access to Web information, and JournalToGo gives a choice of subscriptions and abstracts from leading medical journals. Both applications are free, paid for by bundling their programs with advertisements.

As technology advances, many practices are considering electronic patient records. Future software will enable data to be transferred from the desktop PC to PDAs, allowing patient histories to be beamed, though some controversy does exist over confidentiality.

In practice, the NP must master techniques that will help provide excellent care to the patient while accessing necessary information in a timely, efficient manner. PDAs are a tool that can help. With the increased amount of software available, PDAs can enhance safety by providing comparative information between medications and up-to-the-minute medical data all in the palm of your hand.

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