PDAs at work: Page 3

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For third-year students at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, "lugging around a laptop becomes a challenge," says Johannes Boehme, associate dean of Academic Computing at the school. That's because students start their rounds of clinical work in their third year.

New PDA apps spur higher worldwide shipments
Source: Dataquest Inc. (1999)

U.S. handheld computer shipments soar
Source: Dataquest Inc. (1999)
The American Association of Medical Colleges requires that students keep track of all the interactions they have with patients--data that has to be reviewed by their professors. Until this year, Wake Forest students kept track of their patients using pen and paper; they later compiled their notes into one report to share with their professors. Now they are relying on handheld IBM 3C WorkPads.

Programmers at the school developed a patient tracking system for the WorkPads, so students can enter the data on their handhelds and download it into one central computer using the Scout server from Riverbed Technologies Inc., in Vienna, Va. (Riverbed recently agreed to integrate its Scout IT network synchronization technology with Unicenter TNG from Computer Associates International Inc., of Islandia, N.Y.) ScoutSync software lets students synchronize their patient information with the school's Access database. Once the data is in the main computer, professors get reports on each student's patient load. Eventually, Wake Forest would like to expand the use of the PDAs to list medications, beeper numbers, and other medical reference material. "The potential is unlimited," says Boehme.

The future of handhelds

In the coming years, META's Gold predicts that companies will use PDAs in a variety of capacities, and a growing number of companies will develop applications to serve the market. PDAs are especially promising for people in the field, including repair people, census takers, and salespeople.

While it will probably be a long time before handheld devices are flying planes, or even replacing laptops, corporations have embraced them for their potential to make field data collection and transmission easier, faster, and error-free. Which means the once exclusively personal nature of PDAs is definitely history. //

Valle Dwight, based in Northampton, Mass., is a contributing editor to FamilyPC magazine.

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