Special to LTW

DURHAM, N.C. — Hand held computers are helping doctors and patients get the most out of their visits together. Duke University Hospital uses the e/Tablet – a wireless, notebook-sized computer – in six cancer clinics.

Before her doctor visits at , 83-year-old Ann Bergeron answers questions about her symptoms and other problems she’s having on an e/Tablet.

“It allows patients to record their symptoms across a broad range of questions in a way that really captures information that we weren’t able to do before,” Dr. Jeff Crawford at Duke University Heath System said.

The e/Tablet contains 88 questions that patients rank between 1 and 10. Then they leave the e/Tablet with staff in the waiting room.

The information is printed on a single sheet with color coding to highlight the highest scored problems.

“They used to send someone in to ask questions and then write them down, but now they do it electronically,” Bergeron said.

Using the e/Tablet saves time for patients and doctors.

“So the time I was spending asking questions, I can now direct it at the problems they’ve already identified for me,” Crawford said.

Crawford said the records kept on each patient helps determine if treatment is really helping over time. This advanced way of recording, compiling and interpreting patient information is called Rapid Learning and aims to improve patient care.

“It’s an initiative within the health system to focus on how do we get smarter about doing the right thing for patients, specifically, the right thing at the right time,” said Dr. Amy Abernethy, program director of the Duke Cancer Care Research Program.
Bergeron said she appreciates the comprehensive and personal approach the e/Tablet provides.

The e/Tablet questionnaire also covers a patient’s feelings of anxiety and depression. If someone shows a high score, the doctor will immediately call a counselor.

Reporter: Allen Mask, M.D.
Photographer: Rick Armstrong
Web Editor: Minnie Bridgers

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