Pharmacy could use the Palm Pre

There is an interesting little article in this month’s issue of Hospital Pharmacy (not available online yet – volume 44(5), pp 429-430, May 2009) entitled “The Palm Pre: A Beginning of an Ending?” The author, Brent Fox, has been writing articles on Palm powered devices (PDAs) for several years. In the article he address the upcoming release of the new Palm Pre , a smartphone with slick new hardware and software that is supposed to compete with the iPhone and BlackBerry devices.

Several years ago PDAs were all the rage, with those from Palm making up a majority of the handheld market. There was a time when every pharmacist in the hospital had a PDA in their hand or lab coat pocket. Literature describing their use for documenting clinical interventions, carry individually created documents (i.e. “peripheral brains”), performing pharmacokinetic calculations, accessing drug information and performing drug interaction checking is easy to come by. More importantly, PDAs offer all this functionality in a surprisingly small form factor. However, the portability of these devices comes with a price. Today’s PDAs and mobile phones simply don’t posses the processing power necessary to manage complex pharmacy software, handle large graphics or provide real time access to many web based drug information and decision support resources (people will argue these points….it’s my opinion people). Limitations in screen size is also problematic as they are often several orders of magnitude smaller than a full size desktop PC.

The complexity of pharmacy systems and access to information resources have not made PDAs and mobile phones obsolete per se, but have created a void between these mobile devices and desktop PCs. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Palm Pre (sometime in early June) as I believe there is a place for such a device in the pharmacy world. Smart phones, in general, can be used as tools to enhance pharmacy practice. I have personally owned several PDAs during my career (TRGpro, Palm V, Palm m505, Palm m515, Palm LifeDrive, HP Jornada 540, Sharp Zaurus) and currently own an iPod Touch and Samsung-i760 Smartphone, which I use to stay in constant contact. I don’t think the new devices will ever have the popularity in pharmacy that the original Palm revolution enjoyed, but I see lots of possibilities.

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