Hand held device may save lives

Point-and-click software developed at Penn State University for use with handheld computers could enhance patient care by helping ambulance personnel collect data more efficiently.

Point-and-click software developed at Penn State for use with handheld computers could enhance patient care by helping ambulance personnel collect data more efficiently and provide more information to hospital emergency departments.

The software is said to use a small diagram of the human body on the handheld screen to speed up information entry about the type and location of a victim’s injuries.

Pointing and clicking on the figure where the patient is injured allows the software to record information automatically. For example, clicking on the figure’s right arm records the location of the injury.

The attending ambulance personnel can then select the type of injury from a drop-down list. Vital signs, including blood pressure, pulse, EKG number, can also be entered by point and click via sliding scales and drop-down lists.

The information entered via point and click can then be transferred to the Emergency Department right from the scene via wireless-cellular modem. Or, the information can be transferred by ‘beaming’ it from the Palm to a printer at hospitals that support infrared technology.

‘Field trials are showing that the new software enhances record accuracy. It also can help ambulance personnel provide a higher level of patient information and save significant amounts of time when they complete the pre-hospital trip report,’ said Janet Jonson, associate research engineer at Penn State’s Applied Research Laboratory (ARL).

‘We recognised early on that ambulance personnel needed a better, quicker, way to communicate patient information to receiving hospitals, particularly, for trauma patients in rural areas,’ said Dr. Douglas Kupas, Emergency Department physician at Geisinger, who is serving as medical adviser to the application development team.

‘Delayed reports about what happened at the scene of an accident can delay treatment,’ said Kupas. ‘Although we started this project with the idea of helping trauma patients, it quickly became evident that all patients served by ambulance personnel could benefit from the improved communication and record keeping,’ he concluded.