1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


I am always looking for teaching tools. Trying to describe a computerized electronic medical record (EMR) to students with minimal clinical exposure can be difficult without using some type of visual aid. I've used screen prints from various systems and pages from print advertisements but they don't have any interactivity. One could develop something using Access or FoxPro that could approximate the look and feel of a very basic EMR or take a look at some of the open source and freely available products on the Internet.


The California Healthcare Foundation published "Using Computerized Registries in Chronic Disease Care" in May 2004 ( Computerized disease registries are "systems to capture and track key patient information that assists care team members in proactively managing patients with chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes." Some of them are in the public domain and might be easily loaded on a teaching station computer. While these are nowhere near a complete EMR, they can help demonstrate the flexibility of data collection and retrieval, graphing, and automated reminders.


Most students (many practicing nurses) seem fairly proficient at using a word processing application, e-mail, and the Internet. Using spreadsheets and databases to collect, manipulate, sort, and query data frequently presents challenges. The UNC School of Public Health, Department of Maternal Child Health, has created an excellent series of modules called "Data Skills Online" ( Far more than a spreadsheet and database tutorial, this is a comprehensive set of tools to collect and analyze data. While written for the maternal child health community, the principles are applicable to any specialty.


The UNC course was developed using WebCT, a very popular computer-mediated course management and delivery application. Many who might want to explore computer-based education do not have access to high-end institutional tools. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) maintains a free software portal that, as of this writing, has links to 40 open-source course management systems from all over the world ( The most popular application by far is Moodle, developed in Australia by Martin Dougiamas. Next on the list is Spaghettilearning by Claudio Erbain from Italy. It is an international venue with applications from the United States, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, New Zealand, and many more.


I found the UNESCO site through a link on the Open Source Nursing Informatics (OSNI) Web site ( Established in 2003, the OSNI Working Group of the International Medical Informatics Association seeks to educate and promote the use of open-source materials in healthcare. Members of the group will be presenting a workshop entitled "Open Source and Free Software: The Potential for Applying Open-Source Solutions to Health Informatics Problems in Education, Research and Practice" at MedInfo 2004.