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Veterinarian Tracks Horse and Cattle-care Using Her HP Palmtop on Farm

Veterinarian Tracks Horse and Cattle-care Using Her HP Palmtop on Farm Calls

With HP Palmtop in her holster and printer in her van, this veterinarian tracks the medical needs of 3,000 animals. She communicates with colleagues using WyndMail and uses the palmtop to support all aspects of her practice.

By Dr. Jean F. Feldman

Click to see larger image.

 I make farm calls all day, carrying my palmtop in a holster. The palmtop hangs just below my left shoulder slightly above my waist. If my patient moves while I am handling it or pushes me into a wall my left arm takes most of the pressure, protecting the computer.

 When I first purchased my 95 LX in 1992 I was clueless about computers. I am a veterinarian for large animals, which means I work with horses, cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and llamas. I was looking for a very portable method of computerizing my practice and at the time a software company called DVM Manager was the only source for a veterinary program that I could use right on the farm. Their package included a 95LX, a Sparcom transfer station and a card reader made by DataBook. I purchased a personal computer to run the main program. To solve some problems I was having running the program on a 95LX I quickly upgraded to a 100LX palmtop.

How I use a palmtop in a barn

My 100LX travels with me as I make farm calls all day. It stores a scaled-down version of DVM's business program on a 20MB (stacked to 40MB) flash card. There are over 1,000 client records on the card (name, address, phone, barn location, etc.) with 3,000 or so animals and two years worth of medical history on each.

I now carry my 100LX in a holster. This is much safer than in a pocket over the years my palmtop has fallen out of and into, ...well, just about everything. Carrying a palmtop at my side is also superior to laying it down where cats or kids could play with it while I'm working in a barn.

As I discuss with a farmer an animal's medical history and perform a physical exam, I enter findings in my palmtop. The alternative would be to try to recall 20 animals' heart rates, temperatures, etc., at the end of the day or use a dictation device and have to spend time transcribing later. I prefer creating palmtop records on the spot, which I then upload at night.

In general, typing with two thumbs hasn't been too difficult even in a cold barn, although when it's really cold (like 10 degrees F) the screen on the palmtop will darken.

After examining all the animals in one location, I go to my mini-van and place the 100LX in a Sparcom cradle that connects the unit to a power source (wired from the fuse box just like my car phone) and to a Kodak Diconix printer. With one keystroke I am able to print out a bill and hand it to the farmer.

Thanks to my palmtop, questions about an animal's past history can be answered while standing in the barn talking to the owner instead of looking through volumes of paper (See Screen 1 on page 22.) Right on the spot I can tell an owner when future vaccinations or treatments are due. Since the area in which I practice is a rabies endemic area, clients are very interested in having proof of rabies vaccination (for liability reasons they need the certificate to enter their horse in a show) so I print that before I leave. This is far less painful than hand-writing multiple certificates at the end of the visit and it enhances my professional image.

 DVM software holds my medical history records for each animal I examine. When I have finished with one animal, I merely close its history and go on to the next. This process can be accomplished from the "transaction screen," so when all of an owner's animals have been examined and treated, I know the cost.

Securing data while I sleep

At night, I upload data from the business program and closeout on my 486 IBM (client and animal records are "updated" and not written over). Once a week I download from the main computer so client balances and reminders remain relatively current. This takes about 3.5 hours and goes on while I sleep.

I really don't worry much about data security as far as the 100LX is concerned. Worst case scenario would be total loss of the flash card and palmtop, but since all new data is uploaded every night and backed up using a tape drive, I might loose one day's work at the most. That is probably better than loosing control of an entire paper record on a windy day and running across lawns and fields chasing pieces of paper. Now, a printed copy of the animal's history is safely stored at the office!

Horse-For-Sale database and the palmtop built-ins

I have gradually started to use built-in programs for scheduling and ToDo's (I try to reconcile the calendar in the office with the palmtop at least daily). I use the ToDo list extensively to remind me to mail lab samples, do follow-up phone calls to owners of sick animals and generally keep me from forgetting the numerous details of daily living.

When conversing with my clients, I often hear of horses for sale or of their purchasing interests. Until I created a horse database in my palmtop, I would forget details once I left the farm. Now I can quickly answer clients questions in that regard pretty easily, using the Database search function. (See Screen 2 on page 22.)

 As a free service, I maintain a horse database, which includes names and phone numbers of clients wanting to either buy or sell a horse. I also indicate what talents the horse has and whether it is good for showing, trail riding or for being ridden by a child.

 Memo is handy for mobile professionals

I am using Memo more and more. Last year I didn't write any Christmas letters, but this year I typed them returning from the annual American Association of Equine Practitioners Conference in Denver. They were printed right off the palmtop using a HP Desk 340 (a recent purchase as a backup for the Kodak Diconix). This article was written in Memo while waiting for my clinic van to be fixed.

WyndMail e-mail saved me headaches at a conference

One of the tough parts about trying to get away from the Buffalo, New York area is having coverage for client emergencies when I am gone. I read the articles in the HP Palmtop Paper about wireless communication and elected to try "WyndMail" when I went to Denver (the colleague who covers is on the Internet). It worked well. I could check my messages at the conference center instead of waiting to get them at my hotel at night or checking for notes on a crowded bulletin board at the conference. I was also able to call my aunt and advise her that my return flight was late using the "text to speech" service. I intend to keep both the modem and the service.

NoteTaker stores small files for large purposes

After reading through several issues of the HP Palmtop Paper I figured out that small files need to be kept on NoteTaker. I use it to log hours for my volunteer work with Compeer, an organization that supports individuals recovering from mental problems. (Volunteers and their "compeer" do things together as friends, such as go out to dinner or a movie.) My shopping list is in NoteTaker (even vets have to eat) as well as specific files for drug dosage regimens and a list of Web sites I plan to check out.

Quiet moments on the farm with Vertical Reader

I use America Online Internet service and downloaded Vertical Reader from the palmtop section there. So far I have read one book ("The Harvester"= by Edgar Rice Borroughs) while waiting at the clients' farms if I am early or they are late. I just downloaded "The Island of Dr. Moreau," = by H.G. Wells.

Making noise with the palmtop

At my conference, instead of having the hotel staff wake me in the morning, I used the alarm function of stopwatch to play "tiny trumpets" as my wake-up call.

In addition, Playlx = is on the flash card. It impresses kids when I can get my palmtop to play music.

Future needs

One thing I would like to do is use Lotus 1-2-3 to keep track of the scheduled drugs I use. Since I am always adding stock, and subtracting from that stock it is a more difficult thing to do than it first appears.

Each bottle carries a number and the records need to reflect the ultimate disposition of each milliliter of drug. In addition, legally all records must be kept in printed form or they won't be recognized by the DEA. Suffice it to say, I'm working on that project.

With America Online, I want to use my access to the palmtop user area to evaluate some of the small medical programs there that use the HP calculator software to determine dosages.

The 100LX has enabled me to practice high quality veterinary medicine and, along with the other computerized aspects of my practice, increased income while limiting the need for an employee to handle records. It has been an integral part of my entrance into the "computer age." I count its purchase as one of the best business investments I've ever made.

Commercial Products, Freeware, and Shareware mentioned in this article

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