A group of American community-based nurses say that using personal digital assistants cuts time spent on their "paperwork" by up to 50% and improves both the speed and accuracy of documentation.

The programme, which is attracting international attention, also makes decision support software, backed by extensive medical resources, available to the nurses while they are out in the field, delivering care.

Leader of the programme, Jeneane Brian, recently won the Mobile RN , honouring her outstanding work in the advancement of nursing practice and mobile nursing informatics. Her work has been carried out with colleagues in the Visiting Nurses Association of Orange County, California, where over 70 out of 250 clinicians are now using software developed by Brian and her team. They use ordinary, over-the-counter PDAs.

The new way of working is creating a lot of interest among professionals who want to focus more on caring for patients and less on the mandatory documentation, which says the VNA has escalated into a "true crisis."

Brian says, "My vision is that through the use of affordable, intuitive hardware and software solutions, we can drive change in how we depict nursing interventions and how we reflect nursing knowledge. Without a means of properly documenting what we do in all its dimensions, we will never improve the appreciation of and reimbursement for what nurses actually do."