Dennis Deruelle, MD, a hospitalist at University Community Hospital in Tampa, Fla., once needed reliable medical information in a hurry while treating a young woman admitted to the hospital with cellulitis.
The woman was later diagnosed with methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). After Dr. Deruelle administered prochlorperazine (Compazine), she had a severe dystonic reaction.
“She was going rigid right before my eyes,” Dr. Deruelle says. There was no instantly accessible hospital clearinghouse of medical information, although he had called the pharmacy department and was waiting for a call back. So he opened his laptop and turned to an aid available to anyone with a computer and Internet access: Google. “I immediately looked up information on reactions to Compazine and the correct dose for counteracting it. I administered the dose, and within minutes [the patient] was getting better.”
Dr. Deruelle is not alone among physicians in answering medical questions with Google. (See The Hospitalist, July 2007, p. 33.)
He has been interested in medical applications of computer technology for years and serves on SHM’s advisory committee on technology. He receives tech support from his employer, IPC-The Hospitalist Company, based in North Hollywood, Calif. IPC offers its physicians a Web-accessible network called IPC Link—a “virtual office” to help with billing, medical decision support, reference software, continuing medical education, and even blogs written by company CEO Adam Singer, MD.
But Dr. Deruelle has also developed his own applications, including an off-the-shelf voice recognition software loaded onto his company-supplied, 2.5-lb. Tablet PC. He uses it to dictate brief notes to give attending physicians a heads-up about patients being discharged. These notes are uploaded to the company’s network, which automatically generates a fax to the attending within minutes.
The formal discharge summary, produced by the hospital’s medical transcription department, may take 48 hours to arrive.
Dr. Deruelle has wireless Internet access at four of the five hospitals he visits as a hospitalist practice leader.
“As soon as I walk in the door I’m ‘hot,’ ” he says. At the fifth hospital, he uses workstation computers to connect with IPC Link.