Palm handhelds help medical students cope with wealth of reference information

Santa Clara 06 September 2001Palm Inc., a pioneer in the field of mobile and wireless Internet solutions and a provider of handheld computers, has awarded mobile medicine technology grants to 17 United States universities and teaching hospitals. Palm has provided a total of 1000 Palm IIIc handheld computers for students studying medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, and veterinary medicine.

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"Educators tell us that students cannot memorise the enormous volume of information required for today's growing medical and dental sub-specialities, so they are turning to Palm handhelds to instantly retrieve and store information in order to provide faster, more accurate patient diagnosis and treatment", stated Mike Lorion, Palm's vice president of education. "These grants enable research to help medical and dental faculty gain insight into the best ways of integrating handhelds into the teaching and learning of a wide variety of health care professions."

"Students wearing Palm handhelds in their lab coats will be able to have easy access to pharmaceutical formularies, trusted protocols and guidelines, lab results, patient information, pharmacy records, and other information, as well as generate notes more easily", Mr. Lorion added. "The mobile connectivity provided by Palm handhelds is expected to improve the students' learning experience and the patients' care."

The 17 mobile medicine grant awardees will use Palm handhelds in a variety of ways, ranging from clinical rotations, tracking patient care, and accessing health information, to downloading anatomical diagrams, accessing medical library resources, and managing patient records. At Wake Forest University of Medicine, the School of Medicine recently began to provide second- through fourth-year students, who spend more time on direct patient care, with a handheld device to carry with them on their rounds.

As part of their technology-based curriculum, the medical school is developing an optimal solution using IBM WorkPad PC Companions which, linked to a synchronisation data server, will deliver medical and reference information instantaneously. Doctors will enjoy their new found ability to look up critical reference information to better care for patients. They will also be able to store their colleagues' pager numbers, including senior physicians, and download reference databases from the Internet to improve their diagnostic skills. They can even use the handheld to catalogue the procedures they do on rotations rather than scribbling them on scraps of paper as in the past.

An early adopter, Dr. Wesley Davis of the Medical Center's Department of Obstetrics-Gynaecology, stated: "I store in my IBM WorkPad information on drug dosing, procedures and patients, basically all the things you cannot remember, but need to. Its form factor is a huge improvement over paper, plus the search capability gives me control over the information I need, when I need it."

So far, the school has acquired more than 375 IBM WorkPad handhelds. This may be the first widespread use of handhelds by a university, and Wake Forest intends to stay in the lead. "The Palm OS platform has the potential to revolutionise the way our medical centre departments run and communicate", stated Dr. Johannes Boehme II, associate dean for academic computing. "We see an unlimited potential with this platform that could lead to the development of customised departmental applications and the eventual deployment of several thousand WorkPads."

The medical school is currently assessing a solution combining the Palm OS platform with Riverbed Technology's Scout server and PUMATECH's Satellite Forms development environment to make e-mail, scheduling, and medical reference material available to students and instructors alike. To these future doctors and their patients, the mobility and power of the Palm OS platform may end up being a real life-saver.


Leslie Versweyveld

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