|UHN Palm Newsletter (February 2002) - Spring Cleaning Comes Early |
Last month, I tried to catch up on a variety of news items and tips as well as close out the year just past with a review of where this newsletter has been lately. Well, I still have lots of unused material up my sleeve and I decided, in lieu of being creative, to thin out the backlog a bit more this month. There's also the latest installment of my ongoing search for a new Palm PDA.
Convergence for Folks with Big Pockets
On second thought, make that "Big and Deep Pockets". When I bought my first Palm device, I thought it would allow me to get rid of my DayTimer notebook, and a few medical reference books. Less to carry would help my sciatica, even if the PDA cost much more than a paper notebook.
But I have been astounded by the proliferation of add-on gadgets that I can get. Digital cameras, GPS receivers, modems and wireless modems, network cards and wireless network cards, cables to link a Palm modem to a cell phone, memory modules to hold more reference books, even portable ECG machines.
And lately I have started carrying a cell phone. And a Canon digital camera. And I carry around a spare set of batteries in case of a Palm "brown out" away from the recharger stand. At least books didn't need to be recharged. Now my pockets bulge as much as ever. And at quite a price.
Can I cut down on the weight?
Attempts to lighten my pockets (other than emptying my wallet) and fuse multiple functions into one device are emerging. Lots of ideas were on view at the recent Comdex and Palm Source Conventions. Here's a selection:
Palm+Phone+Surfing: The latest entry in this field is HandSpring's Treo. This device is just coming to market with a GSM cellphone built-in to a Palm PDA. Or is that vice versa? It can also replace your pager. You can read an early review at RNPalm. As you can see from the photo at right, there is a hands-free earpiece so you can look at the screen or take notes while making a call.
Not to be outdone, Palm has also come up with a new model, the i705c. In summary, it has an improved screen and colour as well as a built-in cellphone and modem and even an MP3 player. See a preview of what was demonstrated at Palm Source last week.
A variation of the same idea is the Kyocera QCP6035 SmartPhone, which has a small, low-res Palm screen and a built-in GSM cell phone. Kyocera claims you can use it as data modem for another PDA if you connect them with a cable - but I have to ask whether that would save my pockets.
The traditional approach to linking your PDA to a cellphone is with a short cable - for example from Supplynet which claims to have the cables to connect anything. Despite that boast, not all cell phones are capable of this and your Palm will require a modem as well if the cellphone is not able to handle data as well as voice calls . An intermediate level of integration uses BlueTooth wireless networking. For example, BlueTooth modules from Red M link a Handspring PDA, cell phone, and wireless headset for voice calls or web surfing thus eliminating the need for cables.
PDA+Dictaphone: Well, first you need a Handera or another Palm PDA with a microphone. Then you can use medical software suites like EveryNote or iqMax which also permit patient chart dictation, medical record access, billing, prescription writing and more.
PDA+Overhead Projector: Tired of lugging that laptop to the lecture hall? You could use your Palm and a desktop visual presenter like this one by Elmo Corporation. As you can see from the photo here, the presenter is good for projecting your palm screen - for example while demonstrating how to use your PDA. Remember that the enlarged images of your 160 X 160 pixel Palm screen will be grainy to put it politely. You can read more about Elmo at their website.
Palm+MP3 Player+Home Entertainment Centre: Sony has a whole slew of new PDAs. The PEG-T415 and PEG-T615c have crystal-clear monochrome and colour screens respectively. But the N760c also has a built-in MP3 player. If you use a high capacity Memory Stick you can keep very high quality colour pictures as well as sound files on your Palm device. There might even be room left over for some medical texts or a few ECG tracings for teaching or reference. All of these new PDAs are designed to control your home stereo, TV, VCR, DVD player, etc. using the high powered IR beamer which (on most Palm devices) is usually used only for file transfer. All this multimedia activity means that the time between recharges of the battery can be measured in hours rather than weeks. This could be problematic for a mobile worker. There is a review at PDAmd.
My sense is that these all-in-ones not ready for prime time due to battery life and lack of a wireless networking standard. GSM phone networks in Canada are also not all geared up for the new gizmos, although most residents of Europe, Hong Kong and Singapore can deploy the new Treo or Palm 705 now.
Last month I ruminated in these pages about what new Palm I should get. Never an impulse shopper, your correspondent has finally narrowed his choices to two models. Did I mention that my wife refuses to go shopping with me - even for groceries?
As I expected, a number of vendors produced new models at the Palm Source Convention in early February (one of the reasons this month's issue is so late was to give me a chance to report on the new Handspring, Palm and Sony models). Interestingly, there is not yet a new Handera - although the Model 330 holds up fairly well against the new competition except for its slower HotSync (serial instead of USB).
I am also a little disappointed that the new models and the slowing US economy didn't introduce more of a price war.
But, with the current features and prices I am tempted to get either the new Sony PEG-T415 (C$400) or the Handera 330 (C$500).
- Both are monochrome but with higher resolution than traditional Palms. I hope to be able to keep examples of abnormal cardiac rhythms to show my students without squinting.
- Both have memory expansion slots. Sony requires their proprietary Memory Sticks but Handera will let me use SD cards or Compact Flash cards like the ones I use in my digital camera.
- Both have a "jog dial" which permits one hand navigation in the phone book or a document.
- Both have improved sound for louder alarms and music.
Where they differ is in the Handera's more flexible power management (uses alkaline or rechargeable batteries or a plug-in adapter), dictation capability with a built-in mike, and larger screen. It also includes QuickOffice - a suite that converts Microsoft Office documents for the Palm and vice versa. The Sony has Word and Excel viewers only but you can always buy the software separately. The Sony also has a newer version of the Palm operating system software, and very good memory management tools.
If I could get the Handera with OS 4.1 and USB Sync and the Sony memory management software it would be a nobrainer. Still, I think I will make my final decision in time to report on my choice in the next issue.
Medical "Doc" of the Month
I have tried to keep some ECG tracings on my Palm for teaching. I use FireConverter to change files on my PC to Palm format and FireView to display these pictures (both programs free from Firepad). I converted pictures I found on the Web but you can use ready-made images, for example NormakEKG (from Pilotronix - web URL unknown but I have a copy)). Apart form the tiny screen however, I have been frustrated by the poor resolution of the images. A new PDA is one solution to this problem but another approach is custom-built programs which have ECG tracings that are easier to read on the small Palm screen. One such package is PalmEKG (available for free from PalmEMS and I have a copy). I enclose it here for you to evaluate and encourage you to visit the website for more useful programs and interesting reading about Palm use in health care.
PalmECGBrain is a detailed review of ECG interpretation, including tracings, that has been prepared by Ken Grauer and requires iSilo v3 (from iSilo) to run. Although it is about half a megabyte in size this is not a bad introductory text and can also be used in "analysis mode" to help interpret ECGs on the fly.
Other Medical Goodies
You can find free drug dosage databases for various DB prgs at this website: www.geocities.com/fhirning/eDrugsSoftware.html.
At the other end of the financial scale there's the pocket medical texts from PocketMedicine. These are not cheap at USD50 per text. The format is like 5 Minute Emergency Consult. I'm not a big fan: the text is awkward and verbose with no way to view a condensed vesion or summary. The Tables of Contents are only alphabetic topic listings without a more systematic method of organization.
Hack of the Month
ClipString is a small program which will permit you to copy text from your Palm into a file even when the normal copy and paste process doesn't work. I enclose a copy here.
Singapore medical students are exploring the use of wireless networking to link PocketPCs in their medical school environment. Read about it at their webpage.
PDA Cortex is a place for Palm Medicine users - newsgroups, software, news and reviews are all featured here. Check it out.
Lexicomp is well known for their LexiDrugs program which is reputed to have the best Canadian content of all the Palm-based prescribing aids. Unfortunately, Lexicomp's publisher is parting company with them, and SkyScape has introduced its own product, called DrDrugs . DrDrugs has been compared to LexiDrugs and found to have less Canadian content (brand names, etc) in Usenet chat - I haven't checked it out yet myself. See a review of DrDrugs at Medical Pocket PC. One thing both products claim is not to monitor your prescribing practices, unlike ePocrates' qRx program . There's also TouchWorks (from Allscripts, currently only for PocketPC) but this field is not too crowded yet.
Good sources for Palm medical sites: the Healthcare Guide to the Internet. For example here are a few sites they list:
This section has benefitted greatly from ideas and submissions too numerous to acknowledge individually. Apart from the gratification of knowing some of you actually read my newsletter, it's great to see that we are sharing and exchanging what we know. Thanks!
In Times to Come
Next month, I expect I will have a new Palm PDA. Whichever model I pick, some changes will be necessary. How do I copy all my application software and data over to the new machine? Should I take advantage of the new hardware to reorganize my application launcher and all my medical reference files? I'll roll up my sleeves and get to work on all that and more over the coming months.
In response to requests for back issues I have decided to collect all the issues from 2000 and 2001 into two Zip files. If you missed any or are a new subscriber, you can email me (email@example.com) to provide you with one or both of the sets instead of asking for individual issues.
Until next month, enjoy!
This is the latest issue of a newsletter on Palm handheld computers, prepared for doctors, nurses, paramedics, IT professionals and others who need tools that work. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org