Getting the Data In

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A major drawback to the adoption of new technologies and methods in Medical Informatics has been getting data into the application. This has been particularly true in the implementation of medical records and computerized order entry. Doctors have little patience for typing, and when it comes to preparing documents for handheld devices the same problem surfaces. Nevertheless, information has to be in a text file before it can be ported to a handheld.

If your material comes from lectures or tapes, you have little alternative but to type it into a word processor, or to dictate the material. This allows you to organize the data in a way useful to you, and is most likely to be retrievable in a useful form. If your material comes from a journal, other print medium, or electronic format, you have other options:

1. Cut and paste into a word processor if available on the web.
2. Scan the print article and use text recognition to produce a text file in a word processor. This works poorly for photocopied articles and journal articles with background color, and can be time consuming, even with new software. You will still need to cut and paste to rearrange text to your liking.
3. Subscribe to a library service which might grant internet access to some journals in full text.
4. Dictate your version of the material directly to computer. This option is becoming increasingly attractive with new software, but medical versions are expensive, and editing will still be required.

Once you have the text in the word processor you need to augment it with other information, if appropriate, and to organize it. This means deciding on major headings and subheadings which can be highlighted and hyperlinked so that the information can be navigated easily on a small screen. The main text can be augmented further by links to separate documents and graphics if this helps in the understanding of the topic. It is usually best to present major headings at the beginning of the text so that it can be hyperlinked for easy navigation to key parts of the article. Word processors such as Microsoft Word® will allow placement of bookmarks and hyperlinks into the text, and will save the finished set of articles and graphics as a group of web pages which can be ported directly to a handheld text reader or treated as a web by browser software. Details concerning this process are covered in the sectionMaking Your Own Hyperlinked Documents.