Personal Digital Assistant Use: Practical Advice for the Advanced Practice Nurse

Andrew E. Craig, MSN, FNP

Disclosures

Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2002;2(4) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Since their introduction in the last decade of the twentieth century, personal digital assistants (PDAs) have become useful tools for personal information management. For healthcare professionals, these devices can increase productivity by providing ready access to large amounts of clinical and reference material. Yet, the wide assortment of available PDA styles, brands, and models can make the job of selecting a device that will best suit a particular clinician's needs quite challenging.

This article will explain the basics of PDA operation, including common PDA terms and features. Products will be discussed systematically by style, operating system (OS), brand, and model, the process of choosing a particular device will be analyzed and demystified. Buying considerations such as memory size and differences in processor speed across styles will be explained, and examples of clinical software relevant to advanced practice nursing (APN) practice will be presented. This will enable the reader to make a more informed choice when buying a PDA.

In the past several years, the concept of a versatile, multifunctional, handheld computing device has become reality with the advent of PDAs. These devices are extremely popular with consumers. Not only do PDAs provide users with a portable information management platform, they also provide software applications tailored to specific professions ("vertical markets"). For APNs and other health professionals, using a PDA with medical software is touted as a sophisticated way to manage personal information while having a litany of clinical data immediately available. However, with so many different PDAs available, and even more software to choose from, how do you decide which products and software will work best for you?

Like many, my expertise with computing devices has not been gained through any formal program of study, but learned through experience. After purchasing a PDA 2 years ago, I now consider it one of my most useful clinical tools. Based on numerous discussions with friends and colleagues, it has become apparent that a brief primer on PDAs and software could be helpful. This article will discuss the different types of PDAs available, as well as types of software applications that an APN might find useful. Additionally, PDA and applicable software Web site addresses are provided. For clarity, the term "PDA" will be used to refer to all handheld computing devices, as opposed to terms like "Palm Pilot" or "Pocket PC", which actually refer to specific types of PDAs.

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