Handheld computers for data entry: high tech has its problems too
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Background The use of handheld computers in medicine has increased in the last decade, they are now used in a variety of clinical settings. There is an underlying assumption that electronic data capture is more accurate that paper-based data methods have been rarely tested. This report documents a study to compare the accuracy of hand held computer data capture versus more traditional paper-based methods. Methods Clinical nurses involved in a randomised controlled trial collected patient information on a hand held computer in parallel with a paper-based data form. Both sets of data were entered into an access database and the hand held computer data compared to the paper-based data for discrepancies. Results Error rates from the handheld computers were 67.5 error per 1000 fields, compared to the accepted error rate of 10 per 10,000 field for paper-based double data entry. Error rates were highest in field containing a default value. Conclusion While popular with staff, unacceptable high error rates occurred with hand held computers. Training and ongoing monitoring are needed if hand held computers are to be used for clinical data collection.