|UHN Palm Newsletter (April 2001) |
The end of another academic year is almost upon us. Medical students and housestaff docs will shortly be looking at pay raises. By an amazing coincidence, I have found some things for you to spend that extra cash on. Student loans? Never heard of 'em
Software You Can Use
What would be most useful for you as you round in the hospital? Patient management software comes top of the list for many. There are several good choices available and we covered a good selection of them in the February issue.
What else is handy? Prescribing formularies come next on the list. The two best known are qRx (www.epocrates.com) and Tarascon (www.medscape.com). See the March issue for a more detailed review of these free packages. There is also Lexidrugs (http://www.skyscape.com/products/lexi.htm), which pioneered in the field, but suffers by comparison now from failure to update regularly and from its US$65 pricetag.
How about reference works? There are several available that merit your attention.
There are even a few specialized products for my favourite field of endeavour, Emergency Medicine.
Medication dosage and drip calculators were covered in the March issue. One I didn't cover is Archimedes (www.skyscape.com/products/archimedes/), which is currently only available for the PalmPC but is very highly regarded. Watch for it to be released in Palm format shortly.
What else would you find useful? Using spreadsheet data or Word documents from your desktop PC? Got that covered with applications like these:
- Word Documents: You can find many utilities which add themselves to your Word toolbar and convert files to Palm format on demand, for example PalmDocs (www.thinkchile.com/alorca/pDocs/). Documents to Go (www.dataviz.com ) provides true synchronization with your desktop applications thus permiting editing Word documents on the Palm or the desktop. QuickOffice (http://www.cesinc.com/quickoffice/) will provide a similar service.
- Web Documents are easy to convert by editing with Word and using a document converter. Text files can also be converted with iSilo (www.isilo.com), Iambic Reader (www.iambic.com). You can even convert PDF files (on a trial basis) with a program from Aportis (www.aportis.com) although you must then use the Aportis Reader to view them on your Palm.
- Excel Spreadsheets can also be synchronized to the Palm with Documents to Go. Another program is QuickSheet (part of QuickOffice) (http://www.cesinc.com/quickoffice/) Alternatively, you can convert an Excel spreadsheet to Palm format with a utility, but you won't get bi-directional synchronization without extra work.
- Access Databases can be converted to Palm format by almost any of the many database programs for the Palm. My personal favourite is HanDBase (www.ddhsoftware.com), which provides for importing and exporting of data through CSV (comma-delimited) files. Unfortunately, you can't import or export formatted data entry screens or reports as easily as the data tables.
- Outlook appointments and addresses can be synchronized to your Palm using Intellisync (www.pumatech.com/index.html) among others.
You can find many of the utilities and programs listed above (and lots more) at online sites such as Tucows (www.tucows.com).
Do you still have some free time? Want to play some games? What do you mean you "ran out of memory" for your Palm? Already??
No Thanks, I'm Full
Just when you thought you would have to start pruning programs from your Palm to make room for new software comes news of some new Palm devices designed to cure memory woes.
Palm Computing (www.palm.com) has just released two new models with a new approach to expansion memory using SD cards. Much smaller than the Compact Flash card favoured by TRG (www.trgpro.com), the SD card may also catch on better than the HandSpring slot in the Visor (www.handspring.com). To make the new Palms even more attractive, they come bundled with software to enable using a cell phone for email and web browsing (not all cell phones are eligible). They also include the Documents to Go software suite I described above, facilitating synchronization with your desktop.
To stimulate more salivation, the m505 comes with a colour screen. The m500 is still monochrome. Learn more about both models at the Palm web site. You can also get more detailed hints about the hardware by browsing the m505 users' manual online at www.palm.com/support/m505/. Be warned, early users have raved about the new colour screen but note that it is dimmer indoors, although brighter outdoors, than the colour Palm IIIc model.
Not to be outdone, Sony has released a new version of its Clié Palm PDA. This machine uses a Sony "memory stick" for extra RAM and can thus handle up to 200Mb of additional data. This might be enough even for me. An early review can be found at www.palmblvd.com/articles/2001/3/2001-3-14-New-CLIE-PEG.html. Memory sticks, like SD cards, can be shared with some brands of digital cameras. Unlike SD cards, the Sony memory stick slot won't allow you to attach a modem, or camera, or other gadgets (which may or may not ever materialize away if the m500 series flops in the market
No doubt TRG and Handspring will have ripostes to this salvo shortly. As prices fall we should see more colour, better audio, better support for making phone calls using the address book applet and more transparent memory management. New versions of the Palm operating system software are being touted for later this year with many of these features.
Thus the eternal question, buy or wait a bit longer, is still unanswered
Hack of the Month
Are you left-handed? Does your hand block your view of the screen when using the stylus for scrolling up and down through documents? Some software allow you to switch those scrollbars to the left side of the screen. Others can be coaxed to do so by Lefty (www.strout.net), LeftHack (http://www.quartus.net/) or both working together. I enclose them for you to experiment with(Lefty and LeftHack).
Not left-handed, you say? Odd
. Well, for you I enclose ClearHack (http://www.quartus.net/ or download here) which banishes the dotted lines in memos and Todo lists and such. If you prefer the appearance of text this way then this may be useful.
As always, the HackMaster program (widely available online as shareware) is required to load and activate these utilities. An evaluation copy is here.
Have fun exploring.
An ever greater number of sites dedicated to using Palm PDAs in medicine and nursing are sprouting all over. Here are a few.
http://collectivemed.com/ is semi-commercial site but has lots of links to hardware and software and also has a buyers' guide which might be helpful to the undecided.
http://www.rnpalm.com/Wireless_Computing_At_The_Bedside.htm has a report about a research paper on the potential benefits of using mobile computers in nursing and medicine. Remember this site when the UHN implements its next big Information Technology Productivity Project.
http://www.jimthompson.net/ is still an excellent place to get one doctor's perspective on what's useful and what choices/compromises he made when upgrading his PDA. Nothing here about how he actually paid for it however.
Next month, I'll list a group of web sites where you can find more Palm software than you will ever know what to do with. I'll also return to the topic of programming tools for the Palm PDA - what to use and when.
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: email@example.com