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We completely forgot to report on the ACT Health Library’s highly successful PDA fair in early March – sorry, Saroj! Reps from a couple of IT and medical software vendors were on hand to spruik their wares, and the Library teased the hordes with the actual HP iPAQs soon to be available for loan (in what appears to be an unprecedented move in hospital libraries, although we are of course willing to be educated otherwise!). One iPAQ and many licenses for various bits of medical software (MIMS, Australian Medicines Handbook, among others) were up as prizes, which did generate a lot of interest.

So now the Library is up to providing these PDAs for two-week loan to the general public. But there’s a snag. See, it would be nice to restore the PDAs to a standard setup when returned by a patron, so as to avoid the PDAs accumulating unwanted data and software, and to save time having Library staff manually tidying the PDAs before re-lending.

A backup-and-restore service would seem ideal for this process. Unfortunately, the backup-and-restore options previously built-in to the OS (Windows Mobile) and synchronisation software (ActiveSync, both Microsoft packages) was removed with the latest versions (Windows Media 5 and ActiveSync 4.5).

This seems a completely bizarre concept but is nonetheless reality.

An attempt to contact HP and find out whether their iPAQ had some kind of built-in system didn’t end so happily, either. In the interests of investigating The Interactive Web, they were contacted via their Live Chat service. The result was, to say the least, disappointing. After spending 15mins finding the requested Serial and Product numbers, entering in personal contact details, and watching automated welcoming messages pop up on the screen, the only non-scripted responses were firstly incorrect (a recommendation to remove and re-install an unnamed driver) and then obliquely unhelpful (“not on the ipaq”). Further attempts at communication went unheeded.

As an advertisement for virtual reference/support, it was a brilliant lesson on what not to do and how not to do it, and can’t be recommended for serious attempts at resolving product issues.

So it’s back to square one on these PDAs, with third-party software being investigated. The launch, by the way, is April 16. Reports on the success of this lending scheme will follow. Discussion on similar lending schemes – using iPods, PDAs, and other such portable devices, will be welcomed and we can just about guarantee any recommendations will be followed up …

Personal Digital Assistants (PalmPilots, PocketPCs, even Blackberries) are increasingly becoming prominent in hospitals in general, and hospital library (if it exists) tends to become one of the major support areas for the PDAs. The vast majority of the hospital and/or educational institution health/medical PDA support sites are run through the institution’s library; such as

There are a range of issues around the support and management of PDAs in hospital libraries, not the least of which being the requirement for librarians to suddenly become technical support gurus and knowledgeable about not only the different types of PDA, but able to differentiate between the various different pieces of health/medical software available for PDA (and the list is very extensive indeed). MIMS and/or DynaMed? – for eg.

I’ve only myself received a PDA for playing around with (Palm T5, in case anyone was wondering) and have contrived to crash it at least twice, which is some small record for me! PDAs don’t necessarily have a lot of inherent memory, so the first thing to learn (apart from things like “turning it on” and “installing software” and “how to find programs”) is that one can’t install everything at once, just to “try”. This means I’m learning how to uninstall stuff … and that’s how I’m causing the crashes. There’s more hand-holding to this than I originally realised …

I’m also of the firm opinion that within 10 years, really significant health/medical resources will be concentrated into portable medical devices and they’ll be essential, not “useful to some, regarded as a waste of space by many, essential to a very few”. Think Star Trek and their magical scanners that diagnose AND dispense … we’re not far from that, I reckon.

And in a related segue … the Canberra Hospital Library is hosting a PDA Info Fair on March 7, for hospital staff and students. All Canberra and area librarians, whether medical or not, are invited to visit – it runs between 11:30am and 2:30pm in the main hospital foyer. There will be various hardware/software suppliers on hand to provide information, and the Library will be promoting its increasing range of support services for PDAs within the hospital itself. Contact the Library for more information.

Hmmm … “Point Of Care IT”, or PocIT. I _like_ it …