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HP Palmtops in Medical Education

HP Palmtops in Medical Education

In 1993, the University of Arizona College of Medicine received a grant from HP, which included 200 HP 95LX Palmtops for medical student use. Other students and faculty not part of the grant-funded project, have used their own resources to become Palmtop owners.

The capability exists to connect the Palmtops to selected nodes of the College's Microcomputer Training Center and the College's medical library for file transfer, printing, and access to local host and Email facilities and the Internet. In addition, PCs with connectivity and printing capabilities are available at a number of remote sites where students do clinical rotation.

USING THE BUILT-IN APPLICATIONS

Staff and students have been creative in coming up with new uses for the MEMO, PHONE, and APPT tools. For example, the College has electronically distributed student schedules, and a student and faculty phone book, including network addresses. Also, one student has created a PHONE dictionary of medical terms and their Spanish translations.

Students have been aggressive in their use of the Palmtop for day to-day purposes, including:

  • MEMO -composition of entire papers and off-line message preparation
  • 1-2-3 -development of spreadsheets for pediatric drug dosing;
  • APPT -taking class and patient schedules and follow-up contacts.
The connectivity options of the Palmtop have been of significant value, particularly the infrared link which is notable for its simplicity and convenience.

There have been a few complaints about data loss. This invariably happens during a system "hang up" under low-battery conditions; especially rapid and severe battery drain has been noted with heat exposure, which is not uncommon in southern Arizona.

Students have occasionally remarked on the interpersonal impact of using Palmtops. One observed that the other clinical personnel felt like they were being ignored when a computer was being used in their presence. These observations have influenced plans for increasing communication with clinical departments.

Dale L. Curtis, Harvard Medical School

Ted Eytan MS, College of Medicine, University of Arizona

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