Current Best Practice in Using Your Psion

(Courtesy of Dr Shane McKee)

EPOC palmtops (still fondly known as "Psions") are by far the most popular palmtops in the UK and Europe, and are rapidly gaining ground in the US. Mobile access to such sophisticated computing power could revolutionise the practice of medicine, provided doctors take control and use this tool to its best advantage for the benefit of their patients.

The most coveted machine at present is the gorgeous Psion 5mx, with powerful inbuilt applications for Word Processing, Spreadsheet use, Database, Agenda management, etc. What's more, there is a vast array of high quality third party software (much of it Freeware or Shareware, more than for any other palmtop) available to further extend its functionality.

It's a shame that so many people just use their Psion as a diary and phone book - they are missing out on some serious power. A bit like owning a Ferrari, and only ever using it to go down to the shops.

You need to make the most of your investment - the rewards are enormous!

Here are some handy hints which may guide you on the path:

So, as you can see, you don't even need any 3rd party software to start using your Psion to make your medical life better and more organised. In fact, my contention is that the inbuilt apps are probably adequate to service your everyday clinical needs. Having said that, if you want to get the full value from your Palmtop, there is some great software available, which deserves checking out.

Writing Medical Software for the Psion

  1. If you know how to program in OPL, the door is wide open to you writing your own programs for use in your clinical practice. Here are a few tips of my own which make me find a program useful:
  2. Unless it's a major standalone APP, write it in OPO format, rather than making it a System-hogging OPA or APP. I mean what is the point of having a whole Extras icon devoted to some boring BMI estimator??? Make me want to give you space on my Button Bar!
  3. Try to keep the User Interface (menus, dialogs, etc) as close to the regular Psion ("EIKON") system as possible - this will make it less of a pain in the nether regions for your users who are already used to the Psion GUI, and will mean that people won't bother you so much with suggestions like "Why don't you make your program more like the Psion User Interface?"  Head them off at the pass, and do it right from the start.  The "Advanced Topics" section of the OPL manual gives guidance on this.
  4. Try to make the program as user-configurable as possible. All doctors are different, and have different needs and foibles. And many are just downright awkward. I speak from experience as a software author and doctor.
  5. Try to keep memory requirements down and speed up.
  6. Try not to include many subsidiary files etc. Where possible, use just one program file, and as few data files as you can reasonably get away with. Especially try not to use too many directories & subdirectories, but if you must, make them easily accessible. The unpalatable reason is that folks may want to remove your program at some stage, and you want to stay on their good side, don't you?
  7. Make sure your spelling is perfect. There's nothing more irritating than people who don't know how that the correct spelling of "fetus" is "fetus" and NOT "foetus". (But enough pedantry!)
  8. Remember that the most useful medical applications tend to be data reference type things - normal ranges, conversions, protocols etc. Personally I hate BMI estimators. Give us more databases and spreadsheets!!
  9. Let me know so that I can include it on the software page!

The main principle behind Palmtop Medicine is "Use it or Lose it". The more you incorporate your palmtop into your clinical practice, the more valuable you will find it. I find palmtops work best when used in conjunction with a Personal Computer, linked up with PsiWin (for the Psion range), or a similar product. That's the fact whether you're medical or not. The other Big Thing is to encourage your colleagues to join the Palmtop Generation.

Onward & Upward: Development Potential

There is no doubt that palmtop technology will continue to improve, leading to increased functionality, and potential uses for palmtops. Some of these are already being realised, and some are probably just around the corner, so join the revolution while there is still time for you to influence it.

The practice of Medicine is undergoing a phase of rapid change greater than any ever before. I suppose we must remember that the most important thing is not to let your palmtop (or anything else) come between you and your patient. The therapeutic relationship benefits both patient and doctor.