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    UHN Palm Newsletter (March 2001)

    Drip, Drip, Drip…

    That's not a leaky faucet, it's all the infusion calculator programs floating around out there. Many include other calculator functions, from "anion gap" to "water deficit". We examined some calculators in the August issue last year.

    A few new ones:

    Infusicalc (shareware, Chris Jones, look on PalmGearHQ) lets you work out the drip rate for a given drug strength, or work out the dilution required to achieve that strength. You can add meds to its database, and add text notes about each drug if you wish. This is a handy program if all you need is a quick way to work out your "drips".

    IVRate (shareware, Andy Black , SpazTheCat) is a simpler but similar program. A nice touch is the onscreen calculator pad for inputting numbers - no need to fiddle with the Palm Calculator applet if you don't want to.

    MedCalc (, has some drip calculator functions among many other features. MedCalc, like InfusiCalc, lets you work out drug dosage by drip rate from a particular dilution, or vice versa.

    The only problems with MedCalc are its size (179 kb) and the need to find the infusion management calculator among all the other medical formulae in the table of contents. A shortcut: you can use graffiti to enter the first letter of the calculation you want instead of scrolling down the list. Thus, from the MedCalc table of contents, enter an "i" stroke and the infusion calculator is highlighted immediately.

    MedMathPad (widely available add-on to Rick Huebner's Mathpad) adds formulas specific to medicine and nursing to the general purpose main program. Drip calculations are included. The interface is a little cluttered but the calculations are easily performed.

    There are programmable calculators (see the August 2000 issue) and even HanDBase (, a database program, lets you create calculated fields so that you can have a table of drip calculations. But the appearance and format of the tables is less snazzy than the purpose built apps.

    For more on this topic and a review of several programs, see Jim Thompson's web page (

    Medical "Doc" of the Month

    In past issues we have discussed various ways to convert HTML (such as websites) or text files into Palm-readable files. AvantGo ( is the industry leader for converting online materials, but it is extremely expensive for use with files on your own PC or local-area network. There are alternatives, however. I use iSilo ( for this task but it is not free and doesn't handle tables particularly well. Another choice is Plucker ( which has recently been improved. Plucker's main advantages are that it easily builds Palm-readable files out of HTML files on your local hard drive, it is free, and it handles graphic images quite well. Also, Plucker files can be distributed to users by email or on floppies. This makes it handy for teaching materials or reference files for large numbers of students who can't all HotSync on a central server (that's how AvantGo works). Unfortunately, tables are still not formatted in an easily readable format.

    Making online content available to Palms is a major goal so we can expect all these products to continue to evolve. For those who teach or distribute documents to a wide audience, these are programs to keep an eye on.

    Hack of the Month

    In then same way that Hacks access the Palm operating system software to enable clever software, system shortcuts permit hardware control. This month, instead of software Hacks, I will describe a few shortcuts that change the way your Palm works.

    All system shortcuts begin in the same way:

    • Open the MemoPad applet
    • Tap on "New"
    • Use the stylus to make the shortcut symbol (an upside down Graffiti "Y")
    • Double tap to make a period (".")
    • Enter the number or letter code for the shortcut

    For example, the number "8" allows you to change the backlight mode from "inverted" to "bright". The number "7" toggles between different battery modes so that if you use rechargeables instead of alkalines the battery meter will be more accurate. This last trick is not for Palm V or Vx models or Visors with built-in rechargeable batteries.

    Don't do too much experimenting with system shortcut commands. Some are only useful for programmers and others will reset your Palm causing data loss. Also, some shortcuts work differently on Visors or TRGPros than on Palm devices. Be careful out there.

    I enclose a copy of Undocumented Palm Tips, a handy guide to many tittle tweaks and obscure facts about your PDA. You can also find lots of tips (and warnings) at this site.

    Have fun exploring.

    Medical Computing

    Do you use a pharmacopiae program on your handheld? QRx, by ePocrates ( and Tarascon ( are both popular. I have been using qRx for quite some time and find it quite useful.

    Recently, I have read a great deal about ePocrates collecting information about which drugs users look up, and selling that information to pharmaceutical firms and advertisers. Not being keen on sharing my professional life with commercial interests, I downloaded and tried out the Tarascon reference instead as the company claims that they don't keep track of user information. Perhaps they don't but every time I look up a drug in Tarascon it forces me to back up the entire database during the next HotSync. Why is the database being modified that way if not to keep track of … something. And besides, it adds three to four minutes to each HotSync and drains my batteries. Annoying and increases my paranoia.

    EPocrates, by the way, claims that you can bypass any attempt to monitor your usage of qRx by the simple expedient of not downloading the "updateable" version. The program periodically stops working and asks you to get a newer one. Each time this happens, simply erase it from your system, then download the newer version from their web site. It takes about the same amount of time to update this way and shares less info about what you are doing with the software on your Palm.

    For the less paranoid, we might ask what value and meaning a pharmaceutical firm might attach to learning which drugs we use so infrequently that we have to look them up when prescribing. Maybe we should just ask them to pay us to attend a focus group…..

    In Times to Come

    Next month, we will look at a few new technologies planned for future handheld devices. We will also recap whte the "well-dressed" housestaff doctor is carrying on his/her Palm PDA.

    Until then, take care.

    This is one of a continuing series of newsletters on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, IT professionals and other time-challenged folk 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:

    Visit our website for the latest Medical Palm Review newsletter and the archive of back issues.