Medical school requiring PDAs

Faculty and students say a PDA saves time and helps them provide better care, in addition to reducing medical errors.

Along with books, pencils and a stethoscope, medical schools are now requiring students to invest in PDAs (personal digital assistant), reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The advantages to having a PDA are numerous, and a growing number of medical and nursing schools such as Brown, University of Michigan, University of Texas and the UCLA School of Medicine —  require students to buy and use PDAs. Having a PDA saves time, reduces medical errors and provide better care, giving diagonistic programs and drug references and diagnostic programs at their fingertips.

"Let's face it, it's impossible to get all this stuff straight in your mind and memorize it," said Art Frazzano, associate dean of medicine at Brown.

Keeping up with the lastest information is nearly impossible with a textbook, which would be outdated almost as soon as the student bought it. Using PDAs a student can update their software weekly.

The software most medical students use is made by California-based Epocrates Inc., which specializes in medical software for hand-held computers. It provides its Epocrates Rx program free of charge. The program tells students drug uses, generic equivalents, appropriate dosages and possible interactions or side effects.

The PDA is an invaluable tool in getting students  to do a better job of interviewing patients and recording the results, Frazzano said. Brown University has designed a special software program for Palm handhelds that helps walk students through their interviews by asking about patients' vital signs, medical history and family.

"To have that computer at your fingertips is so helpful," one nursing student said. "When a patient is asking you a question, you don't have to say, 'Well, let me go find out and I'll get back.'"