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Palm Pilot

Home Medicine Computers Palm Pilot Black Heritage Hearth and Home God and Faith

I bought my first palm pilot- a Palm IIIx- October 1999.  In January 2001 I added an additional 4 MB of memory with TRGPro to give me a total of 8 MB of memory. (I think 8 MB is a must for the serious medical user).  I am now on my third Palm the Palm m500 provided by my job at HealthPoint Family Care.  When I started my new job  they gave me a new TRGPro PDA- it's basically a Palm Pilot with 8 MB of memory with a slot for a memory card.   I am thinking about getting the Palm Zire 71 but for now I am trying to optimize my m500 with better use of the SD card. 

PDAs are becoming pretty popular in the medical field and new applications for their use are expanding.   This page is primarily geared toward physicians and medical students and health care workers with an interest in finding the best way to integrate tomorrow's technology with today's patient.

Everything on this page is my opinion, of course, and I have not attempted to include everything, just what seems the most helpful. This information should be applicable to all the Palm OS platform PDAs, --Palm, Handspring Visor, Sony CLIE, etc.

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General ||  For Starters || Medical

Miscellaneous || References || Fun Stuff

General The first question is which PDA or Palm to buy. There has been a big explosion in the number of companies offering Palm OS systems, including Sony Clie, Handspring Visor, Handera and the technology and capabilities of PDAs is getting better all the time.  Basically anybody in the medical field should look for at least 8 MB of memory and an expansion slot for compact flash or a memory stick to store additional info.  Color,and high- resolution, while still optional, is a great idea because more and more medical applications will continue to add high color graphics to their programs and will allow more use of medical images. Wireless is a growing area, I think it's still best for the high-end user or someone really into computers and all things wireless.  For more specific recommendations for the medical user check out The Family Physician's Guide to Handheld Computers

#1. Backup everything often!.  I know a few people who won't touch their Palm Pilots because they downloaded all sorts of information, had the address book filled up and had all their important dates in the date book then something went wrong and they lost ALL their data.  Between Microsoft and Palm crashes and data loss is inevitable.  Save yourself some big headaches by backing up your Palm Pilot EVERYDAY.  I use Backup Buddy ($$) to back up third party applications.  I have had one complete crash were I lost everything and I just put my unit in the HotSync cradle and everything, including third party applications, was restored except for things I had put in that day.  Now that I have the compact flash card I also use that for backup

#2. Practice graffiti or buy a writing recognition program.  One of the biggest limitations with this first generation of PDAs is getting information into your unit.  

I am pretty fast writing info on my palm pilot now that I have Jot.($$).  It's sorta pricey but well worth it.  I have also heard that some of the portable keyboards are really good but I have never used one myself. 

With Diddlebug I can write things on the screen if I have a lot of information but usually I can write things directly into the needed application with Jot.  For freeware, it's an amazing program.

#3 Learn about your device and use it as much as possible.  If you just spent anywhere from $150 to $500 for the thing USE IT!  Find some computer geek and ask to show you how to do things with it.  If they are like me they will be delighted to show off their technology know-how and show you lots of helpful tips and tricks.  And don't forget to read the manual that came with the thing.  There's actually some helpful info in there.  A great site for general instructions that has pictures of each step is

#4  Download software from PalmGear or Handango.  What's so great about the Palm OS is that there is so much software out there for these programs.  New software is coming out all the time so check these sites out periodically for new stuff.  If you have problems downloading things try this Handango site here  or this site here for instructions.

#5 If you have a Palm and you break it (by dropping all the time like I used to) or completely crash it you can send back to Palm and they will give you a refurbished unit (somebody else messed theirs up and the Palm people fixed it) for FREE for the first year. I actually did the refurbish thing twice cause I kept dropping mine (I guess I'm a slow learner).  I'm not sure if other companies offer the same kind of deal.


For Starters Datebook4  ($$) (updated version) is a complete replacement for the Datebook, ToDo and Memo section that comes with the Palm series.

DiddleBug is a free sticky note program and reminder program all rolled into one. It lets you jot down notes, draws simple images and lets you transfer information into other applications. 

Launcher III, a program my friend Jeff beamed me, is a free launcher application that allows you faster access to your programs and lets you see all your categories and quickly jump from one to the other.

Hackmaster ($)-The easiest way to update the Palm Pilot is to create a hack, a small program designed to add some utility like a better finder program. There are a lot of hacks out there and this application helps manage them and integrate them into your Palm with less problems. It's shareware.

The hacks I use currently are:

  • Easy Launch
  • Clip Hack
  • Switch Hack
  • Trek Sounds Hack

They can all be downloaded from Palmgear.

PalmDocs is a cool program that lets you convert Microsoft Word programs into applications that can be read by your Palm Pilot and vice versa.  It's installed on your hard drive and has a special button that shows up in Word making it a snap to use and best of all it's free.  If you don't want to shell out the money for Quickword then this is the next best thing.

QuickWord ($$) formerly known as SmartDoc. It is easy to use and lets you make your own bookmarks.  It also lets you write your own documents and is totally editable. The new QuickWord actually integrates with Microsoft Word so it replaces PalmDocs. There are a variety of document readers out there that allow you to view text that takes up more than 4 mb (the limit with Memo Pad) but with the editing functions and compatibility with Microsoft Word I think this will be your best bet for a document reader and editor.  If you want a totally free document reader try

Sign-On ($$)-If you're concerned about safety or want to make sure nosy neighbors can't run through all your programs then Sign On is for you.  It's free when you get Jot.

Switch Hack ($) is a shareware program that lets you easily switch between applications, it lists the last ten programs you used and lets you jump between applications.  It's one of my most used hacks!

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Medical I, of course, have multiple programs for the hospital.  As a resident A FAVORITE!!! was PatientKeeper v2.3 ($$) which I used to keep track of patients on consult months.  I have yet to use it on a ward month but I did use it in the Pediatric ICU where I have to keep track of a lot of labs and tests and have some long-term players.    It took some practice getting fast enough to actually make my daily presentations for morning rounds on it and I still use paper to write out my to-do lists for the day but it worked out pretty good. Now that I am in private practice, I don't really use this program anymore.  Our practice only has a handful of inpatients on any given day and I usually just write everything on paper.  For clinic patients I think it be great to list the major problems and meds of my more complicated patients but honestly I have yet to find the time to transfer all the information by hand into the program and as I am getting to know my patients better may not be needed in the future. I'll have to wait and see and play it by ear.

I also use Physik's List ($$) which lists a wide variety of medical topics with differentials or causes.  It's recently been completed and now can be bought for $15,  I downloaded when it was still free and have been modifying it on my own so I don't know what the new version is like. 

A FAVORITE!!!- ePocrates, a free (yes, FREE!) drug database with indications common side effects, contraindications, etc.  The latest version has adult and pediatric dosing, pricing, and mechanism of action.  It's biggest limitation is that it doesn't list pediatric dosing for a lot of meds that are actually used in Peds. Now they have ePocrates Formulary which lists insurance information.  I have yet to get around to downloading the newer program but it sounds like a winner to me- if they have Medicare and Medicaid info!

GREAT NEWS qID by ePocrates just got released!  This is kind of an electronic Sanford.  It covers infectious diseases linking illnesses to drugs and can be searched by drug, bug or location.  Best of all it's free.

ABGPro- Helps you figure out your acid-base state from an ABG.  Great for students and interns.  I actually got rid of the program because I got better at doing the stuff by myself.

HanDBase ($$)-is a relational database that let's you store lots of different type of information in a easy to read/ use way.  I waited a while to get it because of the price but it's turning out to be a great reference tools with stuff like Antibiotic Efficacies, CNS drugs, Lab values all available at the website. I've started making my own databases too.

InfoGuide - This a palm version of guidelines for cardiac stuff like AMI, Stable Angina and Valvular Heart Disease.  It's put out by the American College of Cardiology and it's freeware.

MedMath-Lots of equations you would use in a hospital setting like A-a gradient, creatinine clearance, water deficit, etc.

MetriCalc- Download from Palmgear.  Type in Metricalc and download the zip file. This is a calculator with conversions to and from English and Metric systems like pounds and kilos, ml and oz, cm and inches.

With QuickWord I have a wide number of text documents including topics like:

  • EKG Reading
  • Fever in the Pediatric Patient
  • Medical Spanish
  • On-Call Emergencies
  • Palm versions of CCS Publishing Books- they make the little recipe books for inpatinet Internal Medicine and Pediatric care.  It's free but requires a password.

Almost all of the above text documents can be found at the Ectopic Brain

Billing and coding-  Right now I am using STAT E/M Coder ($$). My practice had purchased copies for the docs so it came loaded on the Palm they gave me.  It's been great, if I have a patient who I think I can bill a higher level on I quickly put down the info I've gathered and then can look and see what other histor or exam points I would need to bill the higher code.  It's also been a big help for inpatient as most residents don't get training in how to bill that.  I like it better than demos I've seen for Zap Code and some other programs because the Stat program goes over each detail of the history, physical and decision making.

I am still looking for a program for ICD-9 codes, right now I just have my MA look it up for me but that's pretty time consuming.

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For the times I have forgotten my wrist watch there is 

Big Clock, freeware with the time in big numbers as well as multiple timers and alarms.


HandyShopper-  Since, despite working long hours, you still have to eat I found this great program for developing a shopping list.  You can find it at PalmGear, just type in the title under search.  You could probably easily convert to other stuff too.  Free!

Mapopolis-If you have a unit with a lot of memory this is a great program.  Download a map of where you live and never get lost again!  Best part- it's free if you get the basic maps, there is a charge for the more detailed maps.



Fun Stuff

I got Block Party from Kristine.  It's a Tetris-clone and way cool.  I also love Hard Ball a version of Pong. My friends beamed these programs to me and I have yet to find them on the web.
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This site was last updated on August 24, 2003

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My Disclaimer: While these links have all been visited by me at least briefly I cannot guarantee their accuracy or reliability and they are not a replacement for information or advice from a medical professional. This site is primarily intended for those in the health profession and is not the place for requesting advice on an individual's health. Personal medical questions will not be answered!!!