Thursday, January 07, 2010

PDA/Smartphone requirements in medical school

Each year, the PDA/smartphone requirements within medical schools evolves. Have you noticed that trend? When I was in medical school, "PDA/smartphone" requirements simply did not exist. Today, each school has a list of mandatory or preferred PDAs and smartphones.

Why do medical students still use PDAs? Because they're so poor that they can't afford to pay for a data plan on a smartphone. Actually, most are not that poor, but some struggle to survive on Ramen noodles and cold cereal (I remember those days...)

So, how have these PDA/smartphone requirements evolved? Are medical schools all mandating the Apple iPhone or iPod touch? No. Some still require Windows Mobile. Few are hanging on to the original Palm OS. Let's face it: medical schools are not early adopters. Students may be early adopters, but the hospitals and universities are slow to implement health IT changes.

Let's take a look at a few case examples of different medical school PDA/Smartphone requirements for medical students:

University of Massachusetts Medical School (
All Class of 2011 students are required to carry and utilize a mobile device during their clinical years. Students can utilize any device they wish (e.g., iPhone/iTouch, BlackBerry, PDA, Pocket PC) but must be able to run all required resources. The library will support ONLY synchronization of the Palm T|X at its synch station
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) (
The Class of 2012 must have a PDA / Handheld computing device for the 3rd and 4th year of medical school loaded with the required software. The 3rd year starts on June 21, 2010 with Clinical Foundations. The devices listed below have been specifically selected as they run the required software. Please note that a phone, data plan, wi-fi or blutooth is NOT required.
University of Virginia (UVA) (
All third year medical students are required to own one of the recommended mobile devices. The entire Student Source site has been optimized for iPod Touch/iPhone. For more resources see our Mobile Medicine site.
University of North Carolina (UNC) (
The School does not require a specific brand or model, but all student PDAs must have the following specifications:
* Palm OS version 5.0 or greater, iPhone, or Windows Mobile
Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University (ECU) (
In an effort to prepare Medical Students for their clinical experience, Brody School of Medicine is requiring 2nd year students to purchase a PDA or Windows Mobile Smartphone at the second half of their 2nd year. The handheld or smartphone required is a Windows Mobile device with at least 64 MB of memory. Students will be expected to sync their device wirelessly, at home or with their wireless laptops or tablets. We have chosen the Windows Mobile operating system because it integrates with our current infrastructure. The Windows Mobile device is like an extension of their laptops, therefore training should be minimal.
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) (
This fall all entering medical school students at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School were required to have an iPod Touch or iPhone as well as a laptop computer. The medical school introduced a mobility initiative designed to integrate electronic content including images, audio, video, and other digital assets and make it available through mobile technologies.
Indiana University School of Medicine (
The 2009-2010 PDA recommendation is the HP iPAQ 110 Classic (same as last year). A number of Palm OS or Windows Mobile PDAs and smartphones will also be supported. The device must have a touch screen interface. Therefore, do not purchase Windows Mobile hardware based on "Smartphone edition" since you will not be able to obtain signatures. The CERTTS system also will not function on BlackBerry devices. Windows devices will need to run Windows Mobile 2003 or later, Palm devices must be Palm OS 4 or higher.
I could go on and list many more medical schools, but I'm running out of space. I think you get the idea. Many medical schools are moving forward with the Apple iPhone or iPod touch, but some still hang on to other platforms like Windows Mobile. My prediction is that the iPhone will remain strong, but Android will be catching up (slowly, since technology changes occur slowly in the world of medicine).

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