Last updated on April 2, 2008
This is one of the commonest questions that is ever asked and so this article will try to put certain
recommendations and the final choice is up to you.
The major two kinds of PDAs are those that run the Palm OS and those that run the Windows
Mobile OS for detailed comparison of these two softwares please refer to
The Best OS Guide.
When you visit the PDA shop you may be presented with protean choices and items and a variety
of specifications that may confuse the beginner so here is a list of criteria that help you out:
Recommended specifications of the ideal pediatric / medical PDA device
1) PIM (Personal Information Manager)
Not only health care professionals carry PDAs but also people from all sorts of life and they actually buy these
minicomputers just to do that i.e. to organize their life & to manage their personal info. We as well need to have this
basic function of the PDA. In fact it is this feature that get us introduced to the world of PDAs before embarking on
medical tools and applications.
Both Palm and Windows Mobile ships with built-in programs for contacts, calender, notes, to-do-lists, photos, emails,
and word processing and a spreadsheet application to support our daily needs and thence better integration into
our day to day life.
As far as this feature there is no much of a difference as to which device you buy, Though we have to mention here
that Windows Mobile syncs appropriately with your Windows Office applications like Outlook and Word and is little
better than Palm in that regard.

2) Integrated phone function
There are some devices (though getting rarer nowadays) that come without an integrated phone. If you  have one
of these devices this will ultimately means that you have to carry two devices (your mobile phone and your PDA).
Some folks prefer to carry both as it is always the notion that Nokia, Motorola or whatever are better than Palm and
Windows Mobile devices as phones with better signal strength and more powerful phone features.
However I don't advice to carry two devices in your small white coat pockets because eventually you will give up on
the PDA as you will definitely choose the phone to store your contacts and emails and other PIMs (remember rule
number one)

3) Compatibility with medical programs
This is the core issue when it comes to people in the medical field. We have to get a device that actually have those
100s of medical programs up and running otherwise it will be useless.
Pda4peds list compatibilities of all reviewed programs in the at a glance page and you may have noticed that most if
not all programs are essentially compatible with
Palm and Windows Mobile and very few programs with other
operating systems. So your device must be running one of these two OS'es and if you still insist on Blackberry or
iPhone then you have to suffer looking for compatible medical applications.

4) Memory requirements
All PDAs come with a built-in memory of which a good chunk is taken up by the operating system and some
megabytes need to be free in order to execute programs (RAM), so read the device specification carefully and see
how much memory is actually free for you to install programs. By all means even if this built-in memory is 200+ MB it
will not be enough for us doctors because after 4 or 5 medical programs we will be running short of memory space.
Therefore we have to buy a device with expansion memory slot whether SD, miniSD, microSD, or CF cards. This is
very important and in fact for some large medical databases like
emedicine or UpToDate or Diagnosispro it is
impossible to install these programs without memory card. The exception to this rule is you get a device with
already built-in extra memory hard drive such as the iPhone with it's various memory capacities.
In addition to that we may very likely be storing personal files such photos and videos on our PDA and such files will
consume a lot of MBs. Also remember that when your device is having low memory it will be rendered slow and
crashes more frequently than when it has a good amount of free RAM. Moreover, memory cards are essential for
backing up our devices which is crucial Read the
backup is life saving post to know why.
So the final advice is go for the
biggest possible memory card like 2GB microSD or 4GB miniSD or even higher
nowadays as you will really need that space. There is good article listed in
the articles page of pda4peds that
explain everything we need to know about memory cards you may read more there.

5) Connectivity
Although wireless connection is not mandatory to run a medical PDA but there are many advantages:
  • You can connect to the internet and check out many of the pediatric mobile sites available
  • You can update your Epocrates Essentials and Merck Medicus and others effortlessly on air
  • You can connect to your hospital server (if there is one) and receive emails and notifications
  • You can listen to pediatric podcasts while on the go
  • You can receive RSS feeds and news as you walk around in the hospital
  • You can share files and documents with your friends and colleagues (via Bluetooth or Infra Red)
So a device with Wifi, GPRS, IF, and Bluetooth is highly appreciated. Read more about Windows Mobile connections.

6) Minimal stylus use
One of the most common reasons that doctors abandon their PDA is the hassle of taking out the stylus to use the
device touch screen. Therefore devices with
navigation pads are needed so that one can navigate through the
page without the need for a stylus, I have to say that Palm and iPhone devices are excellent in terms of one hand
functionality. But also the recent deployment of
touch technology to Windows Mobile devices has greatly enhanced
the single finger approach.

7) Screen size and keyboard
The lovely thing about PDAs is that they can be carried around in our pocket and this has resulted ultimately in small
screen size with small fonts which many of us may have difficulty to read. And for the same reason problems might
be faced when it comes to the small soft keyboard (a keyboard which pops up within the touch screen). Therefore it
might be better to get a device with a
large screen size and an attached hard keyboard to get around these
issues.

8) Pre-installed medical software
Sometimes device manufacturers sell their devices pre-installed with medical programs usually multifunctional
applications such as
Epocrates Essentials, well that will be great specially when we consider the discounted price of
the software and particularly useful for those of us who do not want to indulge into the seas of PDA settings and
installations (such people are most probably not reading this guide!).
The advice here is that even if you get such a device by the end of the day you want to install other programs that
your friends are having and even for the pre-installed application you still need to update it or to upgrade it later on.
So you
have to have some basic skills on how to install third party software.

9) Extra features
Many devices also sport additional software and hardware such as a camera, a recording button, push email, voice
commands, picture editing and management, ...etc. These features will greatly increase our reliability on the PDA
and will better integrate it into our social life and therefore it is
preferred to have these extra features.
Which PDA device is best for the
pediatrician!
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