J Am Med Inform Assoc 9:223-229 doi:10.1197/jamia.M1001
  • Focus on Extending Clinical Communication
  • Research Paper

Clinician Use of a Palmtop Drug Reference Guide

  1. Jeffrey M Rothschild,
  2. Thomas H Lee,
  3. Taran Bae,
  4. David W Bates
  1. Affiliations of the authors: Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts (JMR, DWB); ePocrates Inc., San Carlos, California (THL, TB)
  1. Correspondence and reprints: Jeffrey Rothschild, MD, MPH, Division of General Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115; e-mail: <jrothschild{at}>
  • Received 8 August 2001
  • Accepted 7 January 2002


Objective Problems involving drug knowledge are one of the most common causes of serious medication errors. Although the information that clinicians need is often available somewhere, retrieving it expeditiously has been problematic. At the same time, clinicians are faced with an ever-expanding pharmacology knowledge base. Recently, point-of-care technology has become more widely available and more practical with the advent of handheld, or palmtop, computing. Therefore, the authors evaluated the clinical contribution of a drug database developed for the handheld computer. ePocrates Rx (formerly known as qRx; ePocrates, San Carlos, California) is a comprehensive drug information guide that is downloadable free from the Internet and designed for the Palm OS platform align=“right”.

Design A seven-day online survey of 3,000 randomly selected ePocrates Rx users was conducted during March 2000.

Measurements User technology experience, product evaluation and usage patterns, and the effects of the drug reference database on information-seeking behavior, practice efficiency, decision making, and patient care.

Results The survey response rate was 32 percent (n=946). Physicians reported that ePocrates Rx saves time during information retrieval, is easily incorporated into their usual workflow, and improves drug-related decision making. They also felt that it reduced the rate of preventable adverse drug events.

Conclusions Self-reported perceptions by responding clinicians endorse improved access to drug information and improved practice efficiency associated with the use of handheld devices. The clinical and practical value of using these devices in clinical settings will clearly grow further as wireless communication becomes more ubiquitous and as more applications become available.


  • This work was presented as a poster at the AMIA Annual Symposium, Nov 4–8, 2000, in Los Angeles, California.

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