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Impact of Mobile Computer Devices on Clinical Care

Healthcare professionals depend on the most up-to-date patient data and medical information at the point of patient care to help them make effective medical decisions. Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) or handheld computers offer healthcare professionals the advantages of a portable, relatively inexpensive and reliable information management tool to access, retrieve and record data and information anytime and anywhere.

However, as mobile computing becomes more pervasive, the conditions under which these devices are used are becoming more variable, less predictable, and in many situations more intimidating. In healthcare settings, mobile computers are frequently being used when lighting is inadequate, noise is unpredictable, or when the user is moving or walking. In addition, mobile devices often interrupt clinicians’ ongoing activities in order to perform computer-based tasks: examples include doctors examining a patient while documenting the examination on a PDA, or charge nurses reviewing surgery schedules while interacting with patients. Our goals are to:

  • address the issues involved in developing effective computer systems for individuals experiencing such situationally-induced impairments and disabilities (SIID)
  • investigate the barriers that impede physicians in their PDA use.
  • evaluate the impacts of PDAs in healthcare.

The following projects were conducted to address some of the goals:

  • A preliminary observational and interview study: to identify and documenting the environmental and task factors that contribute to SIID.
  • An interview study to examine the barriers of physicians' PDA adoption.
  • A literature review was carried out to investigate the current PDA adoption and barriers to PDA adoption in healthcare.

The following studies were carried out from summer 2004 to spring 2005:

  • A web-based survey study to explore clinicians' mobile information needs.
  • A web-based survey study to examine clinicians' PDA adoption in healthcare.


Support for this research has been provided by the National Science Foundation (IIS-0121570 and ITR-0081868).