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Epic Special Education Staffing - April 2023

Personal Digital Assistants in Clinical Practice: Considerations & Suggestions

Personal Digital Assistants in Clinical Practice: Considerations & Suggestions
George L. Charpied, M.S., CCC-SLP
May 2, 2005

Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Boston University School of Medicine
and Boston Medical Center
Boston, Massachusettes


The personal digital assistant (PDA) is an effective and useful device for many clinicians. PDAs have the computing power and capacity to manage clinical data files including text and database formatted files, image, video and audio files etc., and they are available with wireless connectivity. PDAs are a useful clinical tool and they can efficiently and quickly manage clinical information.


We live in an amazing age of electronic gadgetry. Electronics are an integral part of entertainment, daily communication and many other facets of life in 2005. Despite the relatively small size of portable laptop computers, they are cumbersome when one travels, and in the clinical environment smaller is better! This is true for clinicians on the go, such as Visiting Nurses Association SLPs, school-and-hospital-based SLPs and others, whose office is frequently distant from the site of assessment and treatment. For many, the office is only where we start and end the day. But our actual "work" is done in treatment rooms, on hospital floors, or in the homes of patients, where there too, is a need to document findings, access and record data. With personal digital assistants (PDAs) many of these needs can be successfully addressed.

This article will focus on the Sony PDA, model Clie' PEG-NX-80 U/V ("PEG80"). This paper will address the PDA itself, and recommended add-on software and hardware to allow the PDA to work successfully in a clinical practice.

Palm versus Pocket:

Personal digital assistants (PDAs) come in a variety of types and levels. There are two primary types; the Palm-type and the PocketPC. The real difference is in the operating system (OS).

The Palm-type PDA features an OS which is a proprietary free-standing software package. The Palm-type OS (Version 5.2) operates much like the OS on your computer. The Palm-type OS comes from PalmOne which is found in many other devices including cell phones and such as convergence devices as the Treo, where cell phone, PDA and network devices are combined.

The PocketPC OS is from Microsoft, and is called Windows CE (compact edition). Windows CE for the Pocket PC is gaining ground on the Palm-type system (see Duwe reference).

Both systems have powerful digital processors. Most PDAs are capable of producing fast access to data and offer colorful screens, can accept additional memory and add-in gadgets without appreciable impact on PDA operation.

Recommended Features:

First, and foremost, the PDA should have a rugged construction. That means a metal or a thick plastic, case. Your PDA will be certainly be dropped and must be able to withstand daily jolts and shocks.

The "clam shell" folding case is also preferred as it protects the screen when not in use. Some of the clam shell models allow the color screen to be twisted or rotated for multiple angle viewing, and can be used for small group presentations (see figure one).

George L. Charpied, M.S., CCC-SLP

George L Charpied, MS, SLP-CCC, is director of the Department of Speech Pathology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He has 13 years clinical experience working with voice patients. He has published research articles, presented invited papers, written expert commentary, and written books for the field. His research interests are the neuroanatomy of the phonatory mechanism and the use of imaging to aid clinical diagnosis.

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