Purchasing a PDA

Residency Program Insider, August 29, 2006

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Purchasing a PDA

With the vast array of personal digital assistants (PDAs) now on the market, it can be difficult to discern which type is right for you. Medical professionals are increasingly using PDAs for accurate note taking, billing information, patient tracking, and more.

There are two main types of operating systems (OS):

  • Palm
  • Pocket PC (Windows Mobile)

    The Palm OS, developed by Palm computing, Inc., was the first handheld device on the market, and tends to be more widely used. As a result, the applications that can be downloaded to a Palm outnumber the additions available for a Pocket PC. Pocket PCs, however, tend to provide a wider variety of models and vendors, and typically can do everything a Palm can do, plus enable the user to perform PC functions. In most cases, Pocket PCs are powered by a Microsoft OS, the original developers of the Pocket PC. Both versions have advantages and disadvantages, but the OS matters less than a buyer's personal preference. Because there are now thousands of pieces of software available for PDAs, there is virtually no limit to what you can do with your PDA.

    When you purchase a PDA, take time to go through the instruction manual. Because there are features that you will not realize you have or will not know how to use, it is time well-spent. In addition, make sure you choose a model that is right for your needs. Consider the following factors before purchasing:

  • Color
  • Memory
  • Operating system
  • Software (number of applications that can be added)
  • Size
  • Battery life
  • Speed
  • Market share (more software is available for Palm OS)
  • Price

    One major trend in handheld devices is a PDA that also functions as a cell phone. Both OS versions have a model on the market that incorporates the two devices.

    Finally, if a hospital has provided residents with a specific type of PDA, it is advisable to buy the type that most people around you are using. When it comes to information sharing, the brand and model number don't matter so much, but the operating system does.

    All the best,

    Chris Helopoulos, MS, PA-C

    Operations director
    Bayer University physician assistant program
    St. Petersburg, FL.

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