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Academic Medicine:
ANNUAL FEATURE: IN PROGRESS: REPORTS OF NEW APPROACHES IN MEDICAL EDUCATION: CURRICULUM: Clinical Science Education

Using Personal Digital Assistants in a Family Medicine Clerkship

SULLIVAN, LAURIE CSW; HALBACH, JOSEPH L. MD, MPH; SHU, THEODORE

Section Editor(s): ANDERSON, M. BROWNELL

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Association of American Medical Colleges

NEW YORK MEDICAL COLLEGE

Inquiries: Laurie Sullivan, CSW, Department of Family Medicine, New York Medical College, Munger Pavilion 306, Valhalla, NY 10595; e-mail: 〈laurie_sullivan@nymc.edu〉.

Objective: Education and training in current technology are a necessity in curricular development in medical schools. The use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) has become standard in many health care settings, particularly where personal computers are not easily accessible. In an effort to give students an introduction and hands-on opportunity to incorporate a PDA into their clinical education, and to improve the data available to the Department of Family Medicine about the clerkship experience, a curriculum was designed, software was refined, and PDAs were given to all students on the family medicine clerkship.

Description: In September 2000, the family medicine clerkship introduced the use of PDAs into the four-week clerkship. This initiative was spearheaded by a group of students who brought the need to integrate the use of PDAs to the attention of the administration. Family medicine was selected as the clerkship most appropriate to begin this integration. The software was adapted from the AMBCARE program designed by the New York University School of Medicine for use on the ambulatory care clerkships.

The curriculum consists of a 30-minute training session at the clerkship orientation, during which the PDAs are distributed, procedures are reviewed, and instruction on the use of the software is provided. Throughout the four-week clerkship, students collect information in two areas. First, they document the nature of their contact with patients, basic history and physical information about each patient, and their assessment and diagnosis. Second, the student is asked to gather information about the educational experience of the clerkship, including commentary on work with a specific preceptor. The wealth of information about patient contact, diagnosis, and educational experience is being evaluated by the department to enhance the educational experience of the clerkship and more effectively place students with community preceptors. Preliminary results suggest that this effort is an effective way to integrate current technology into the academic curriculum in measurable ways that enhance student learning and program evaluation.

Discussion: Preliminary evaluation of this effort suggests that students recognize the potential for new technology to influence health care delivery; they appreciate the exposure to the expanded knowledge, efficiency, and accuracy of the PDA; and they recognize the connection to evidence-based medicine that this technology allows.

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Section Description

Annual, Peer-reviewed Collection of Reports of Innovative Approaches to Medical Education

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© 2001 Association of American Medical Colleges

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