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May 1, 2001
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Kate O'Rourke
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Johns Hopkins Experts Launch Palm OS™ Version of Digital Antibiotics and Infectious Disease Guide for Physicians

Service is free and available on World Wide Web

Johns Hopkins today announced the introduction of the Palm OS™ version of its digital Guide to Antibiotics and Infectious Disease – the ABX Guide -- designed to give physicians free and up-to-the-minute information on antibiotics and their proper use. The ABX Guide offers information on more than 190 drugs and more than 140 diseases treated by both specialists and primary care physicians.

The same rigorously reviewed database and clinical support system, found on the Web (http://hopkins-abxguide.org) since August 2000 is now available on any handheld personal digital assistant (PDA) system using the Palm™ operating system. The initial version was launched last month for Microsoft Pocket-PC.

The ABX Guide has more than 12,000 registered users and recorded 1.6 million hits in April, an increase of 600% since March, the month of the initial launch. Sixty percent of the hits were from physicians, with the remainder coming from nurses, pharmacists, medical and nursing students and others.

Capitalizing on the popularity of handheld PDAs, and developed in part to address concerns over antibiotic drug resistance and inappropriate drug prescribing, the ABX Guide is the first in a planned series of easily navigated, up-to-date digital specialty handbooks from Hopkins medical experts.

Instead of relying on quickly outdated and limited paper versions of drug references, ABX Guide users carry expert-written, condensed modules that present the most essential information on the diagnosis and treatment of infectious diseases. Experts hand-picked by Hopkins review and update materials monthly, making the ABX Guide extraordinarily sensitive to changes in the field. Expert comments are attributed, along with supporting citations in the literature. Emergency alerts, such as FDA recalls, can be "pushed" to all users in an instant, assuming physicians access the updated database regularly.

The ABX Guide gives doctors practicing in virtually all settings access to the same current diagnostic and treatment guidelines being followed at major medical institutions. The system also will help doctors cope with the estimated 1,500 treatment guidelines that government agencies and medical organizations have developed over the years in an effort to standardize best practices, according to John G. Bartlett, M.D., chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins, and editor and chief of the ABX Guide.

Unlike other existing digital guides involving infectious diseases, the ABX Guide is carefully reviewed by specialists at Hopkins and other institutions. "We make sure that reviewers bring the perspective of teacher, scientist and clinician to their task," says Walter Atha, M.D., director of the ABX Guide project. "This helps ensure that the information contained in the Guide is absolutely accurate and based on the best scientific evidence, not anecdote or convenience. Since most physicians who use PDA devices carry Palms, we are thrilled to be releasing the ABX Guide for this platform."

Infectious disease experts who write the ABX Guide can update their assigned sections anytime, from anywhere they have access to the Internet, notes Sharon McAvinue, director of the initiative known as Hopkins Point of Care Information Technologies (POC-IT). McAvinue conceived of and spearheaded the ABX Guide project as part of POC-IT, while Bartlett serves as senior director of POC-IT.

Amadeus Technology Corporation in Ithaca, N.Y., developed the PalmOS™ application of the ABX Guide. Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright to all POC-IT content, including the ABX Guide. Applied Theory (NASDAQ: ATHY), a company based in Syracuse, N.Y., constructed and will maintain the ABX database and PDA applications. The ABX Guide and future POC-IT applications will be available for Palm operating systems in the next few months, as well as for other PDAs and devices such as smart phones .

 An important design feature of the ABX Guide, and other planned POC-IT applications, is the ability to gather information anonymously from users, who are required to complete a brief questionnaire on the ABX Guide Web site in order to gain access to the database. POC-IT will then regularly prompt users to update their digest of medical information by downloading newer versions directly into their PDA through a "cradle" attached to their desktop computer.

As a physician downloads new information from the Web site, POC-IT will collect data about the viewing patterns of registered users. This information will be collected and uploaded from the PDA each time the doctor links to the site through the cradle. Researchers at Hopkins will match those data with answers to the user questionnaire, which consists of five brief demographic questions. The goal is to identify trends in medical practices. Findings will serve as the basis for academic publications and research opportunities.

"This will let us compile an extremely valuable database of prescribing behavior and antibiotic usage trends that reflects how specific diseases are being treated in different settings throughout the country, and could alert practitioners to potential public health problems," says McAvinue.

Also, unlike some similar commercial products, information on the ABX Guide is collected anonymously. The names of individual physicians cannot be linked back to them unless they voluntarily submit their e-mail addresses. "We believe there is a wealth of unrecognized clinical expertise in the community that will formally contribute to the advancement of medical knowledge," says McAvinue.

A Hopkins oversight board is being formed to consider the potential uses of aggregate data, both academically and commercially, according to McAvinue.

Development of the ABX Guide was funded through unrestricted educational grants to Hopkins POC-IT from Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Ortho McNeill, Pfizer, Pharmacia, and Roche. Sponsors are acknowledged in a special section on the Web site, but no banner or commercial advertising exists in any of the applications.

The next Hopkins POC-IT Guide, currently in development, will cover treatment of HIV/AIDS and will be available for both Microsoft Pocket-PC and Palm OS™ systems.

Related information is available at:

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/2001/APRIL/010402A.htm http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/2001/APRIL/010402B.htm http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press/2001/APRIL/010402C.htm

Photos available upon request.


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