PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) are handheld computers that can synchronize information between a handheld and desktop computer or server. Most use touch, pen based interfaces or handwriting recognition technologies for data entry. Like most technology the PDA has quickly evolved to be very sophisticated devices. Basic applications on most PDAs include a schedule/calendar, address book, task list, memo pad and calculator. Modern PDA technologies have also merged with wireless and cellular phone technologies to include web, e-mail and networked applications in what are now described as Smart-Phones.
There are many competing device formats, e.g. the Pocket PC /Windows Mobile (Microsoft), the Palm (PalmOne), and also smart-phone formats such as the Apple iPhone, Blackberry (RIM), and Palm Pre. They all use different operating system (OS) software interfaces to access the functions of the PDA, but most operate very similarly. The Blackberry is more of an expansion of business digital Cell-phone technologies that provide additional data functions (such as e-mail and scheduling), but other applications are now available for the platform. The Apple iPhone is the market leader currently offering even more functionality. There are also some health specific programs (applications) that can run on these devices.
Palm devices now use both the Palm OS and the Windows Mobiles OS. Several other manufacturers such as Handspring, Sony, and TRG also use the Palm OS, and others their own (e.g. Nokia). Apple, Microsoft PocketPC/Windows Mobile based devices are generally becoming more dominant in the market, also those manufactured by Compaq/Hewlett-Packard and Casio.
For an introductory site especially helpful for the novice PDA user or those interested in becoming PDA/smart-phone user go to: http://www.howstuffworks.com/pda.htm
Many applications have been developed to help nurses and other health care professionals in practice and are valuable because of the enormous amount of reference information that can be made available at the point-of-care. Some of the particular uses include drug dose and medical calculations, and access to updates reference and clinical tools, and patient tracking.
The following website provides more information about various types and models of PDAs if you are planning to purchase or upgrade your PDA. http://www.pdabuyersguide.com/
Some of the basic applications that come with a PDA are a calendar and date book, address book, memo pad and To Do list, expenses, email, calculator and built in security features such as passwords and information ‘locks’. Increasingly PDAs are integrating other technologies such as voice recording, MP3 players, wireless connectivity with wireless networking (WiFi) or cellular telephone technology (GPRS), and digital cameras. Basically, the more features and memory that these adaptable computing devices offer the higher the price.
An essential feature of PDAs is their ability to synchronise data with a PC or Apple Mac computer. All PDA devices come with synchronisation software and some sort of desktop Personal Information Manager (PIM) application. Palm OS machines will work with either Windows or Apple Macintosh systems, whereas PocketPC machines are designed to synchronise with Microsoft Windows based systems. Most can also use third-party PIMs such as Lotus Organiser with additional software purchases.
Here are some devices that nurses and physicians are currently using. Although the list provided is not an exhaustive one it does provide a sampling of some good devices and places to get started. The resources listed here are for information purposes only and do not imply an endorsement of any particular product or manufacturer.
|Budget Devices ($100-200)||Mid-Range Devices ($200-400)||High End ($400+)|
|Palm Z22||Palm T|X 128 MB WIFI Handheld||HP iPAQ h6950|
|Palm Tungsten||HP iPAQ||I-Mate JASJAR|
|Toshiba E800||PALM TREO 650 & 750 Smartphone|
Whilst we recommend the use of PDAs and Smart-Phones to support your clinical practice and learning we do not recommend a specific configuration. This really depends upon the applications you wish to run on the device.
Operating System (OS)
Palm, Pocket PC, Apple, Backberry? Try the device out first if you can, for example by loking at afriends device or visiting a local electrical appliance/computer dealer and looking at the models on display. Find out which PDA system you are most comfortable with. You are going to spend a considerable amount of time using the device, so try out the touch or pen based data entry first and see which interface you prefer. Also consider if you can work with the screen size. Don’t expect to be competent at data entry immediately; it takes most users about a week to adapt!
Manyprofessional health care applications are available in both Palm and Pocket PC formats, and more also in the Apple iphone format too. It is not a good idea to simply by a PDA because a particular application (such as a free drug reference tool) is available only for that PDA. These are rapidly changing technologies and it is better to purchase on the basis of your personal comfort with the ease of use of the device, and its flexibility. Ask your colleagues who use various devices how easy it is to synchronise documents, files, install software etc, and what problems they have had, to get different perspectives.
The amount of built in memory is important (32MB is an absolute minimum and at least 64MB is recommended for professional use). Go for as much as you can afford. One budget strategy is to buy a lower memory PDA and an additional storage card at the same time if the device will take one
Other Things to Consider
|Five-Minute Clinical Consult||
|911 Response Resource||
||Library has subscription services - ask the subject librarian|
Drug Referencing and Prescribing
||Limited free version available for Palm|
|Mosby's Drug Consult||
|Johns Hopkins Antibiotics Guide||
Johns Hopkins University
|Lexi Drug Guides||
Clinical Calculators and Guides
|Nursing Central & Reference Texts||
|Lippincott Reference Texts||
|STAT Growth Charts||
|Pregnancy Dates Calculator||
|BC Clinical Guidelines||
BC Clinical Guidelines
Patient Tracking, etc.
None of these resources are being endorsed by the School of Nursing or by UBC. This list is for information only. Please note that all such applications are used at the practitioners own risk. In general we would recommend looking at the source of such applications carefully, the track history of the provider, and look for evidence of professional development and testing. Also if you come across any you think we should add please do let us know. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
A list of resources for nurses interested in PDAs and their applications compiled by St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL