HERE’S ANOTHER EXAMPLE of how technology is changing traditional laboratory practices. Lexi-Comp, Inc.’s Laboratory Test Handbook with information on 1,200 tests is now available as a software program for downloading onto the Palm Pilot handheld PDA (personal digital assistant).
Effectively, a handheld computer device can now replace the ubiquitous tome found on the shelves of lab test stations throughout the country. What gives this product added value is the fact that Lexi-Comp updates the software weekly, so the PDA can always have up-to-date diagnostic test information. In contrast, a book of lab tests becomes increasingly outdated as time passes and new technology hits the marketplace.
“To my knowledge, this is the first laboratory test manual that has been adapted for use with a PDA,” stated Matt Kerscher, Nursing and Diagnostic Division Manager at Lexi-Comp. “We introduced the Palm OS version of this product in January and will have the Windows-powered pocket PC version ready in April.”
This software product is sold on a subscription model. For an annual price of $75, the user can download updates for a full 12 months. The product contains the information from Lexi-Comp’s Diagnostic Procedure Handbook and the Laboratory Test Handbook. There are 28 fields of information for each listing. Lexi-Comp has been publishing laboratory test handbooks since 1984.
Demand already exists to replace printed and bound manuals with a PDA loaded with the same information. Since its introduction of a pharmacy software product in August 2001, Lexi-Comp company has sold 10,000 units.
Information Age Impact
Although the arrival of a PDA-version of the Laboratory Test Handbook is a small event in the marketplace, it is a significant sign that the information age is steadily changing traditional business practices. For example, one national lab company has Lexi-Comp create a special version of the Laboratory Test Handbook for use by its own employees. Digital publishing makes this easier and less expensive, thus making it feasible for almost any laboratory to create a customized version of this database.
Packaging a laboratory test handbook into a PDA reflects the ongoing shift from paper-based data to digital data. Laboratory administrators and pathologists should consider opportunities with-in their own laboratory to digitize data that has traditionally been issued on paper and make it available to the internal lab staff as well as external users.
Being an early adopter of such services in local markets can provide laboratories and pathology group practices with a competitive edge. Of equal importance, digitizing data for electronic access and distribution is frequently cheaper than printing the same material on paper.