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E/Tablet Technology May Provide Benefits to Patients, Researchers

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- The old wooden clipboard and pen that
patients typically encounter when providing information in a
doctor's office may soon be replaced by wireless, handheld
notebook-and-pen-style computers called E/Tablets.

Patients in some community cancer clinics have been using
E/Tablets for several years, but a new study by Duke University
Comprehensive Cancer Center
researchers shows that
E/Tablets may also be useful in busy, academic medical settings
for both for collecting patient history data and conducting
clinical research.

"When you go to the doctor's office you're asked to fill out
a medical history form each and every time, and some of that
information -- like gender and what your grandma died of --
never changes," said Amy Abernethy, M.D., an oncologist and
lead investigator on the study. "E/Tablets allow patient
information to be stored permanently and confidentially. We
also found that patients are satisfied with the tablets, that
they furnish comparable data to those collected on paper, and
that they may even be more effective in collecting data on
sensitive subjects, like sexual satisfaction."

The results of the study will be presented at a poster
presentation on Saturday, June 2, at the American Society of
Clinical Oncology annual meeting in Chicago. The study was
funded by Pfizer Inc.

In the study, breast cancer patients used E/Tablets to enter
information about themselves and to answer survey questions
about the user-friendliness of the E/Tablets. Nearly all of the
patients reported that the tablets were easy to read, easy to
navigate and were a comfortable weight, and that responding to
questions using the tablets was easy. Nearly three-quarters of
the patients reported that using the tablets made it easier for
them to remember their symptoms.

"The symptom assessment tool provided on the E//Tablet is
tailored specifically to cancer patients," Abernethy said. "The
focused prompts are designed to help patients facing
life-and-death issues to also remember important
quality-of-life concerns they have had, such as how food taste
might be altered by treatment, or whether they bruise more
easily or have trouble sleeping."

The researchers also speculate that the E/Tablets were able
to elicit more information on sensitive subjects, such as a
patient's sex life because working with them affords a certain
amount of privacy that patients don't believe they have with
paper and pen.

"Patients using clipboards might worry that someone is
looking over their shoulders," Abernethy said. "With E/Tablets,
they can answer a question and then move to the next
screen."

E/Tablets can also be used to provide information -- such as
a library of educational content tailored for the needs of
cancer patients, or video clips of survivors telling their
stories -- to patients as they sit in waiting rooms, kind of
like personal laptop computers, Abernethy said.

The researchers also expect the tablets to become useful
tools for data collection for clinical trials. Results
presented at the meeting demonstrate that E/Tablets are just as
reliable as paper forms for collecting the type of data needed
in cancer clinical trials, Abernethy said. The system also
saved data entry costs.

Other researchers involved in this study were James Herndon,
Jeannette Day, Linda Hood, Jane Wheeler, Meenal Patwardhan,
Heather Shaw and H. Kim Lyerly.

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