Pediatricians' Use of and Attitudes about Personal Digital Assistants

Aaron E. Carroll, Dimitri A. Christakis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

67 Scopus citations


Background. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are being increasingly used in medical practice. Although they have been touted as having the ability to improve efficiency and safety, little is known about pediatricians' use of and attitudes about PDAs. Objective. Our goals were to 1) determine the percentage of pediatricians using PDAs and computers, 2) determine perceived strengths and weaknesses of PDAs, and 3) explore characteristics associated with beliefs and use. Design/Methods. Pediatricians (2130) were selected randomly from the American Medical Association Physician Masterfile of US-licensed physicians. All participants were mailed a survey along with a prepaid return envelope and a $1 incentive. Up to 3 mailings were sent per participant. Results. Of eligible participants, 63.2% returned a survey. There were no significant differences between respondents and nonrespondents with respect to sex, type of practice, and present employment. Thirty-five percent of respondents currently use PDAs at work, and 40% currently use PDAs for personal use. Of those using PDAs, the most commonly used applications were for drug reference (80%), personal scheduling (67%), and medical calculations (61%). Few pediatricians are currently using PDAs for prescription writing (8%) or billing (4%). Users of PDAs were more likely to be male (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 2.29; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.64-3.19), in an urban community (AOR: 1.81; 95% CI: 1.30-2.55), in training (AOR: 2.64; 95% CI: 1.58-4.42), not in private practice (AOR: 1.47; 95% CI: 1.03-2.11), and a more recent graduate of medical school (AOR: 1.04 per year; 95% CI: 1.02-1.06). When controlling for covariates, those using PDAs were more likely to believe that PDAs can decrease medical errors (AOR: 2.22; 95% CI: 1.46-3.38) and increase efficiency (AOR: 2.40; 95% CI: 1.56-3.71). When compared with nonusers, users were less likely to view the small screen size (AOR: 0.53; 95% CI: 0.37-0.77) or system speed (AOR: 0.47; 95% CI: 0.26-0.84) as a problem but were significantly more likely to view memory as an issue (AOR: 3.48; 95% CI: 2.30-5.25). Conclusions. More than one third of pediatricians are using PDAs in clinical practice. There seems to be a general consensus among users that they have the potential to improve patient safety and streamline care. Future studies should explore means to utilize their potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-242
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2004


  • Computer
  • Hand-held
  • PDA
  • Pediatrician

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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