Is there really "one-stop shopping" for a physician's medical reference needs?

October 10, 2005

It isn't exactly news: For the past few years, a commercially available device has helped physicians, nurse practitioners, medical students, residents, and pharmacists, quickly obtain the medical information in the palm of their hand. That handheld device is the personal digital assistant known as Epocrates Essentials, delivering information to clinicians on drugs, diseases, and diagnostics.

Is there really "one-stop shopping" for a physician's medical reference needs?It isn't exactly news: For the past few years, a commercially available device has helped physicians, nurse practitioners, medical students, residents, and pharmacists, quickly obtain the medical information in the palm of their hand. That handheld device is the personal digital assistant known as Epocrates Essentials, delivering information to clinicians on drugs, diseases, and diagnostics.

What is new is the opportunity Dateline had to speak today with an enthusiastic user of Epocrates Essentials, pediatrician David C. Stockwell, MD, of Washington, D.C., who was visiting the Exhibit Hall of the AAP's National Conference here. Dr. Stockwell (he is not an employee of, or consultant to, the developers of Epocrates Essentials) labels himself a "a big fan" of the device.

"I think this is a good way to practice medicine," Dr. Stockwell said. "I look more stuff up now rather than making a mental note to look information up in a book after speaking to a patient."

But why does he think that this small companion makes for good medicine?

The Epocrates Essentials premium suite includes an enhanced drug and formulary reference; a disease and treatment reference; and a diagnostic reference to help users interpret test results. Users have access to information on more than 3,300 brand and generic drugs, more than 1,200 diseases and conditions, more than 300 laboratory test panels, and support tools such as drug-drug interaction checking, medical calculations, and measurements.

Dr. Stockwell has been using his Epocrates since 2001. "I don't have to leave a patient to look up medical references. I can sit close to a patient, look at my handheld, and get access that information. Having that information right at my side is very valuable." He also appreciates that the device allows him to spend more time with his patients.

The handheld is updated continuously by a push of a button that connects the user to the Epocrates Web site. For those who may be scared off because they consider themselves less-than-techno-savvy, Dr. Stockwell offers assurance: The device operates "intuitively" and is as easy to use as surfing the World Wide Web.

"For my purposes," said Dr. Stockwell, "it's the best all-around product out there."