|Home | About | Journals | Submit | Contact Us | Français|
What do next-generation PDAs offer the medical community?
The first PDAs (personal digital assistants) to roll out in the mid 1990s were based on the Palm operating system (OS) (Palm Inc, Sunnyvale, California). Although revolutionary at the time, they functioned largely as personal information managers. Current evolution is characterized by connectivity. The original popularity of stand-alone devices is giving way to PDAs that can wirelessly link to other PDAs, to wireless networks, and directly to the Internet. Devices combining PDA and cellular phone functionality are sometimes known as smartphones.
What are the different types of PDA wireless technologies?
What factors should a physician consider before purchasing a PDA?
First, decide whether you will use your PDA primarily to manage personal information, in which case, a low-cost stand-alone device would work, or to perform more complex tasks, such as accessing Microsoft Office (Microsoft Corp, Redmond, Washington) documents. Then decide what types of connectivity you'll need. Bluetooth-enabled headsets can connect you to your PDA without the headache of cords and wires, and Wi-Fi mobility can be particularly valuable in clinical practice if such a network is available at the point of care. Then consider whether you would want a smartphone, with the greater power and connectivity partially offsetting the added cost, complexity, and weight.
What are the limitations of current PDAs?
Are Palm OS-based devices the only useful ones for physicians?
Not at all. Devices based on Palm OS and Microsoft Windows OS (called Windows Mobile) have comparable features and functionality these days. However, there are more medical applications available for the Palm OS. Some find the Palm OS more intuitive than Windows Mobile. Furthermore, Pocket PC devices using Windows Mobile cannot synchronize with Macintosh computers (Apple Computer Inc, Cupertino, California) without third-party software. Few applications with medical functionality are available for BlackBerry PDAs (Research In Motion, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada) and smartphones, though these devices remain popular for their superior e-mail features and ability to synchronize with corporate e-mail servers.
What third-party applications are of value to oncologists?
Since the first Palm devices were marketed, PDAs have been customized with third-party software that greatly expands their functionality. Applications include databases, calculators, algorithm/predictive models, and document readers/editors, among others. Independent developers, including academic institutions, government sources, and individuals, have all created useful products for the medical community. Many are freeware (free) or shareware (low cost) and available for download from a variety of sites. A few examples include:
Apart from the previously mentioned software, commercial vendors such as Skyscape Inc (Marlborough, Massachusetts) publish PDA versions of several popular oncology texts, which can be stored on a memory card.
What are ASCO's PDA resources?
ASCO's PDA services are available online (www.asco.org/pda). There, you can download its membership directory, as well as abstracts and editorials from the Journal of Clinical Oncology, available through HighWire Press. You can install the ASCO PDA Portal, a stand-alone application that allows access to a variety of content, including newsfeeds, a list of ASCO departments, a calendar of upcoming scientific meetings, and medical illustrations. There also is a version of ASCO.org optimized for the PDA browser atpda.asco.org.
Should physicians who use PDAs be concerned about security and patient information?
Patient names and other identifiable information on the PDA are considered protected health information under HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). PDAs can be lost or stolen, putting the stored information at risk of being accessed by an unauthorized third party. While most PDAs can be password protected, requiring a password for every access can severely limit the device's usability. Most PDAs can be set to lock after a user-defined interval. A program called Butler (www.hobbyistsoftware.com; Hobbyist Software) allows the user to send a text message with a given word in its title to a Palm Treo smartphone, which will cause the device to lock or to erase all data when the message is received.
What are your three top PDA tips for physicians?
The authors are not recommending any particular type of software or service.