Picking a digital assistant gets personal

August 12, 2004

Yellow notepads and Post-it notes no longer cut it for managing information in a busy imaging department. The move from personal analog devices (PADs) to a personal digital assistant (PDA) involves challenges, however, according to speakers at the 2004

Yellow notepads and Post-it notes no longer cut it for managing information in a busy imaging department. The move from personal analog devices (PADs) to a personal digital assistant (PDA) involves challenges, however, according to speakers at the 2004 American Healthcare Radiology Administrators conference in Boston.

The plethora of features available in PDAs and the variety of devices can make shopping for one daunting. Helping radiology administrators sift through the marketing hype were chief operating officer Roland Rhynus and CEO Jesse Johnson of PACS Pro in El Cajon, CA, and Renee Stanton, manager of diagnostic imaging at Sharp HealthCare, also in El Cajon.

One of the biggest differences between PDAs is the type of operating system the device runs. The two main operating systems, PalmOS and Microsoft's PocketPC OS, both offer comparable features.

The PalmOS scores in usability, number of applications, and battery life. It also has a larger share of the healthcare market. Disadvantages include its wireless connectivity, multimedia options, and slow computing power, Rhynus said. The PocketPC OS has advantages in computing power, multitasking, wireless connectivity, multimedia options, and integration with Windows OS. However, it is more expensive, larger, and more difficult to use than the PalmOS.

All of these variables, however, are rapidly changing as PocketPC gains more market share and PalmOS adds more computing power, Johnson said.

PDAs also vary in size, shape, input methods, and memory. Basically, it may all boil down to user comfort, Stanton said. She prefers the slightly larger PDAs because she tends to lose things. Johnson likes the smaller ones, which "feel" like cell phones. Rhynus said he prefers to input information using a stylus on the screen, while others may favor using their thumbs on a tiny attached keyboard.

Although making sense of the array of devices on the market can be challenging, the speakers agreed that a PDA is a necessary tool for radiology administrators. When Stanton went from managing 11 imaging centers to three, she thought she could do without her PDA. She then realized that all her red, yellow, and blue notebooks could not be backed up, could easily get lost, and contained information that had to be reentered into new notebooks. The move back to using a PDA was easy and necessary, she said.

The longer you wait, the faster your kids will pass you by, Johnson said.