Saturday, 6 January 2007

PDAs and Medicine

Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) have been around for around 10 years or so, and in recent years there has been an explosion in the number of devices available and of course, with each new generation, the functionality improves yet further.

I started using my first PDA as a medical student in which I wrote my numerous medical notes on almost anything I saw, which I still carry today as a reference. My original PDA was a 3Com Palm 1000 which housed only 512kilobytes of storage. My current PDA is a swish all singing all dancing Windows Mobile 5 with two gigabytes of storage. This enables me to carry a whole desk-worth of books with me at all times for reference-- My Second Brain!

My desk in Ikyoku has only four books. Why?? Because I could not get them in electronic format! The rest of my books sit in my PDA covering the various medical specialties of GIM, Emergency Medicine, Respiratory, Cardiology, GI, Pharmacology, Neurology etc....

With my PDA I can also wirelessly update the various texts so that my information is always as uptodate.

I can also access various online journals via Wifi or GPRS (3G) access that is incorporated into the newest PDAs on the market.

Carrying a PDA is like carrying the Specialist in your pocket and there is no need to think 'I wish I could check those facts, but the book for that is on my desk and my patient is too sick for me to go and check'-- carrying a PDA would negate having to think that at all and you can always check with the various texts you carry with you.

Alot of Japanese doctors carry PDAs such as the various types of Sony Clie or Windows PDAs, but they under-utilise them. Of course, they can check drugs and do basic calculations, but carrying some good books would give them the extra backup of knowledge in their back pocket.

British doctors sometimes carry these devices, but most hospital computer systems have an internal network which displays treatments for all types of emergency problems such as antibiotic regimes, GI bleeding problems, and of course, there is the internet which is a great source of information.

Doctors also have access to a special British-only website that houses many textbooks on-line for FREE!! Hence, most doctors don't appear the need to carry a PDA in the UK.

Japanese doctors do not appear to have that luxury as ward computers don't access the outside internet (intranet only), and carrying lots of manuals in their white coats is impossible.

My opinion is-- Get a PDA, get some good textbooks for it and enjoy learning on your feet rather than at your desk (which you almost never see) and leave the hefty paper books for the libraries!

If you wish to have my opinion on good texts for PDAs then please drop me a line.