Affordable software keeps info at your fingertips

Affordable software keeps info at your fingertips – Handheld Computers

Damian McNamara

ATLANTA — A myriad of medical software for handheld computers can help you organize, schedule, code, calculate, dose, and track, speakers said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Many popular programs can be downloaded off the Internet free of charge or for a nominal fee, Dr. Donald J. Klingen Jr. said.

For example, ePocrates is “usually the first thing people load after they get their Palm.” This free electronic pharmacopeia (at lists drug dosages, indications, warnings, alerts, and other information. The cost of maintaining the software is defrayed by the sale of aggregated prescribing information to drug manufacturers and marketing firms.

The program includes comparative cost data based on average wholesale pricing. “The cost feature of ePocrates is very nice,” said Dr. K. Meg Morrison, associate director of the family practice residency at Mount Carmel Health System, Columbus, Ohio. Previously, “a lot of patients asked me, and I didn’t always have time to look it up.”

MultiCheck software lets a physician assess potential drug interactions. “This is very handy, especially if you have a patient with polypharmacy and you want to prescribe a new drug,” said Dr. Klingen, director of medical informatics at Crozer-Keystone Family Practice Residency, Springfield, Pa. The software can compare up to 30 medications at a time, he added.

Two widely used document readers, iSilo and DOC, compress documents and medical texts–even large reference works–for storage on a handheld computer. Compared with the DOC format, the iSilo format “goes one step further, allowing another 10%-20% reduction in size of the compressed file,” Dr. Klingen said. For about $12, iSilo can be downloaded via the Web site.

Handheld computers are a convenient way to store and access practice management information, such as schedules, appointments, and memos. A program that organizes memos well and costs less than $20 is Hi-Note, he said. The fpnet section of the American Academy of Family Physicians Web site ( lists more than a dozen other practice management software vendors.

HanDBase software allows databases to interact on a handheld computer, such as a list of diagnoses matched to corresponding DC-9 codes.

It also can track [HbA.SUB.1] readings or other patient parameters over time, said Dr. Jeffrey Tokazewski of Marlton, N.J.

The program, which costs about $100, can be used with a variety of specific applications. “One of the nice things about HanDBase is that there are hundreds of these programs, some written by family physicians, available for free” at the HanDBase site ( or other Web sites, Dr. Tokazewski added.

CodeMeister is a popular software program that stores five digit diagnostic codes. It is easy to use, Dr. Klingen explained. “Go to ‘signs and symptoms,’ click on ‘cardiovascular,’ and then ‘chest pain.’ It will list all the codes for chest pain.” is “great software if you dictate notes,” Dr. Tokazewski said. It automatically enters and updates billing information as a physician goes through a patient visit or examination.

Other software for handhelds suggests empiric antibiotic therapy For example, ePocrates ID offers infectious disease information that links with its drug database, ePocrates Rx, for more information on a particular antibiotic. Both MedScape and Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions offer antibiotic software. The Johns Hopkins Antibiotic Guide has the advantage of being easy to update, Dr. Tokazewski noted.

Most medical calculators for handheld computers are free. MedCalc software, for example, can determine body mass index and many other parameters, but the formulas are most useful for inpatient settings, Dr. Tokazewski explained.

MedRules software can predict the risk of breast cancer, deep vein thrombosis, or other disorders based on patient demographics and laboratory values. All predictive formulas are derived from the literature and referenced. It is available through a Web site called peripheralbrain (

Shots 2.1 is another program featured on the peripheralbrain Web site. Like many programs, it provides a vaccine schedule, but it’s unique in ALSO providing “catch-up” information if a patient is behind schedule for immunizations.

In addition to individual company Web sites, there are “metasites” that offer many different types of software for handhelds. Some sites, such as, also have discussion groups where visitors share information and experiences.

Other noteworthy metasites include and; these sites also highlight software that is still in development, he mentioned.

Dr. Tokazewski praised the scope, quality, and affordability of most of the medical software for handheld computers available through the Internet. But he added one caveat: “Things off the Internet are not always accurate. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to use your clinical judgment.”

COPYRIGHT 2002 International Medical News Group

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group