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Unraveling the mysteries of life and death with the HP Palmtop

Unraveling the mysteries of life and death with the HP Palmtop

My job consists of identifying and describing community patterns of disease occurrence. In addition, I design and implement special analytic studies attempting to unravel the reason(s) why some communities have higher morbidity and mortality rates than others. My HP 95LX has been of great help in each of these tasks.

I rely heavily on Lotus 1-2-3 to do time trend analysis of mortality rates among groups of people and among different countries. As I already had the spreadsheet templates in my desktop PC, all I needed to do was to transfer the files to the Palmtop. Now I can carry the most recently updated trend analysis in my pocket ready to answer any question. During staff meetings, I can even pass around the Palmtop, displaying a time trend graph to share preliminary results that I do not want to commit to hard copy yet.

During site visits to public health clinics, I need to ascertain the staff resources currently available. I have used both Lotus and MEMO to design a simple questionnaire (Yes or No, and quantity). I later exported the file to a freeware database management program produced by the US Centers for Disease Control called EPI-INFO. This word processing, database, and statistics system for epidemiology on microcomputers runs well on the HP 95LX. However, the graphics display does not function and you need to learn how to navigate in the 40-column display mode.

As a special analytic study, I classified a community according to different risk categories (age, schooling, socioeconomic status, use of health care, etc), and I needed to calculate the probability (risk) of morbidity and mortality for these different groups. After I fitted a binomial regression model to the data in my desktop PC, I entered the regression formula into HP CALC and sequentially substituted the parameters corresponding to the different risk categories to obtain the probability of morbidity and mortality among different groups.

I also teach epidemiologic methods to medical and graduate students, and I need to command many formulas related to sample size and the power of a study according to its design (descriptive, case-control, cohort or randomized clinical trial design). The backsolving capability of HP CALC Solver greatly enhances the use of many of these formulas and has added enormously to my ability to teach these formulas in the classroom. I bring the HP 95LX to the classroom and practice live "what-if" techniques with the students to improve their understanding of them.

Lastly, I have used the HP 95LX in the dreaded situation of a press conference. I use MEMO for important reminders. In addition, I can access to data stored in a spreadsheet, or recent reference article summaries stored in PHONE. Finally, I can enter an appointment (APPT) right on the spot with a journalist for further clarification.

My productivity has increased enormously as I can now travel with a pocket-size PC having the latest draft of an article for publication (including the data in Lotus), provide study design advice on the spot, keep an updated phone list of professional associates, keep up with my E-mail (COMM) wherever I go, and program the alarm to remind myself about never-miss meetings. The HP 95LX has brought these and many more changes to my life.

Jose E. Becerra, MD Guaynabo, PUERTO RICO

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