|UHN Palm Newsletter (December 2000) - Time & Chaos |
Did you ever wish your life was more organized? Wasn't your Palm PDA supposed to help with that? I don't know about you but I find it very inconvenient that I can't see my appointments and my "to do" list at the same time on the Palm screen. This month's issue will look at a few programs to help you with time management and integration of your appointments and tasks.
For data entry, Palm users tend to fall into two camps. Some put their appointments and tasks directly onto the Palm because they are always on the go. These users tend to use the desktop software on the PC or Mac only for backup or archival purposes. There are others who do most of their work at the desktop PC and use the Palm mostly as an aide memoire, the way they used to use a written list. Lucky members of the latter group may even have secretarial helpers to do the actual data entry and HotSync for them. And answer their phones. And get them coffee? You know who you are but please don't gloat
If you tend to be primarily a Palm-entry person (don't repeat that phrase aloud too quickly) you might find Actioneer (www.actioneer.com) useful. Actioneer uses keywords to insert what you write with the stylus into the appropriate place. For example (see illustration), if you write "call Tim tomorrow", Actioneer places the text "call Tim" into tomorrow's appointment list, and "call Tim" in the task list, AND it links the task to Tim's phone book listing. "Way cool" as my nephew says (mind you, he never says that about me).
If you'd rather not have tasks proliferate into the appointment list, or would like to view tasks and appointments at the same time, then you should check out WhatzUp (www.dataviz.com) or WeekView (www.PimlicoSoftware.com) . These programs pull appointments and task lists out of their respective Palm applications and display them one day or week at a time. Pimlico Software also makes very handy substitutes for the Palm Appointment Book called DateBk3 and DateBk4. They include the WeekView function and much else besides. Pimlico also claims to donate all its profits to a lowland Gorilla sanctuary being built in Georgia (I have not attempted to verify this claim).
DataViz also makes Desktop To Go and Documents To Go (the latter was reviewed in the July issue of my newsletter) which allow you to synchronize Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Office respectively with your Palm. If you work primarily from your desktop PC and run Outlook as your appointment and address book manager, then you may find Desktop To Go very useful. WhatzUp is included with the Desktop To Go package.
Another way to synchronize Outlook with the Palm is with PocketMirror by Chapura (www.chapura.com). There are other software packages designed to synchronize Outlook with the Palm. You can find information about them at most of the large online Palm software retail outlets (eg. www.palmgear.com/).
What about the rest of us, who don't use Outlook for our desktop appointments? Check the web page of your software: the author may well have developed a conduit to share data between your PC and the Palm. A conduit is simply a small add-on program which exchanges info between a program on your PC and your Palm whenever you HotSync. For example, I use Isbister's popular Time & Chaos for my appointments. Isbister has a conduit for sale from their web site to allow data sharing with my Palm. Note that unless your program and the Palm handle names, phone numbers, categories, etc, exactly the same way, the data sharing may need some tweaking. Don't act so surprised - these are computers we are using and they come with lots of warts.
Here are two more titles to give you an idea of other things you can do. Syncplicity (www.cognitiveroot.com) will pull text out of email, etc, and paste it into memos, address book, todo list, according to rules you define. It requires some setting up, but will save you time on repetitive tasks. DeskAlarm (www.deskalarm.com) adds an alarm function to the Palm Desktop software so that you will get notification of appointments while at your desk.
It goes without saying that all these programs require you to be diligent about HotSyncing regularly with your desktop PC if you are to gain the benefits.
Group Schedule Synchronization
There's another aspect to appointment management to consider. What if you have engagements that you need to coordinate with a group? Can you link to, say, the rest of your team to make sure everyone has the same info about rounds and staff meetings? If your entire group uses Palm PDAs then you may be interested in group synchronising software programs. Of course you could just email everyone and have them do their own data entry on their Palms, or you could have a beam fest at morning report and stand around squinting at one another for a minute or two, but what about absent colleagues?
Some residencies and hospitals are starting to use online synchronising services instead. Basically, you create a group, setup a schedule, and give access to everyone who needs to be have that information. Whenever they log on (and they don't have to do it at the same time, unlike morning report beamer rounds) they can obtain the necessary information after signing in. For those who face truly insurmountable communications problems at home, you can even force your spouse to use this to find out your schedule (not a recommended application).
You can find services like this at http://www.wesync.com, http://www.anyday.com, http://www.scheduling.com, and others. For example, Yahoo, and Excite have similar services. The users will still have to do some setting up and copy/pasting of information so this probably isn't appropriate for managing two or three dates or other very simple arrangements. WeSync, for example, will also synchronise phone directories, so you could upload hospital phone numbers, divided into catgories like "Lab", "Clinic"and "Ward", onto users' Palms also. Wouldn't this be handy?
For those with wireless or network-enabled Palm PDAs, you can also use email or instant messaging services (such as AOL, Microsoft Network, and Yahoo) to pass messages to coworkers. Aggressively wired hospitals go even further, permitting charting, lab test order/reporting, and more. Examples of using Palms in hospital environments can be found at the Palm Computing web site:
Hack of the Month
This month's utility is the Find-ignore hack. If your Palm is bulging with files and you only want to search your Memopad for a keyword, you can use Find-Ignore to exclude other databases from the search process. Try it.
The term "peripheral brain" was coined by a doctor who found that his Palm could keep track of lots of things for him, leaving his own brain ("wetware" in computer geek parlance) for other activities. The website of the Family Practice residency at Riverside Hosp, Newport News, Virginia is also called Peripheral Brain. Have a visit and find out why (http://pbrain.hypermart.net).
For something considerably less filling but a lot more fun check out the articles at http://www.qfever.com.
You decide which site more accurately protrays the life of housestaff physicians.
In Times to Come
The subtitle from last month's issue ("He's dead, Jim") is a line cribbed from about one hundred episodes of the original Star Trek series. Rumour has it that their pocket tricorder and communicator devices were direct conceptual ancestors of cell phones and Palm PDAs. (Gene Roddenberry has lot to answer for.) However, since none of you answered the question I posed in the last issue, I think I'll skip the quiz in future. I couldn't think of one for this issue anyway.
The New Year approacheth. Are you thinking of making your Palm more useful at work? Next month we will look at a few patient management programs and other tools for the serious Palm-using doctor.
Until then, enjoy the holiday season!
This is one of a continuing series of newsletters on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, and IT professionals at the UHN. Feel free to pass copies around electronically or on paper. To subscribe, unsubscribe, present burnt offerings, obtain back issues, change your email address or complain, contact the author at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org