Heavy pockets!

Your pockets are starting to fill up. In one pocket, you have your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or handheld computer. While they vary in appearance, functionality, and programs, all major brands of PDAs store data that you normally would write down in an address book, in a calendar, or on note pads.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD

Your pockets are starting to fill up. In one pocket, you have your Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) or handheld computer. While they vary in appearance, functionality, and programs, all major brands of PDAs store data that you normally would write down in an address book, in a calendar, or on note pads. Some provide more extensive applications, such as word-processing, spreadsheets, multimedia (digital photography), and games. If you are interested, you can use your PDA to browse the Internet; catch up on general, financial, and sports news; and send and receive email.

Many dental practice-management systems allow you to link your PDA with your management software. By doing this, you can then download patient information and schedules for use outside of your office. There are other ways you can use these PDAs in your dental practices. Epocrates.com and PDR.com are sites that can be accessed to download pharmacology databases onto your PDA so that you can have drug information at your fingertips.

In your other pocket, you have your cell phone. These indispensable tools are now becoming multipurpose devices. You are no longer limited to only sending and receiving phone calls. You now can access the Internet and play games on these amazing devices.

As time goes on, we are finding that these two great technologies are quickly morphing into one single apparatus. You will soon be able to combine both of these technologies into one "box."

The technology out there is amazing. However, in order to take advantage of what is available, you must do some self-education first. There are a lot of confusing terms that I feel need to be better defined. The more knowledge you possess, the easier your decision process will be when you decide to buy into these technologies:

Bluetooth: This is a short radio link that allows handheld devices to interact with other devices that are within 33 feet of one another.

BlackBerry: This is the technology form RIM that allows you to send and receive email via a pager, phone, or PDA.

CDMA: Code Division Multiple Access — This is the cell phone technology standard that most carriers have been using.

GSM: Global System for Mobile Communication — This is the network that allows you to use cell phones internationally. Some American companies are beginning to adapt this as their standard.

GPS: Global Positioning System — You will be able to find your way around using your cell phone, and emergency workers will be able to find you in case you get lost and do not know where you are.

I also am a firm believer in doing research over the Internet before making purchase decisions. The following sites will be useful in this task:

  • www.cellphones.about.com
  • www.consumerreports.org
  • www.epinions.com
  • www.howardforums.com
  • www.library.uthscsa.edu/internet/pda.cfm

With the increased mobilization of our society, the need for portable communication devices and personal organizers has emerged. We now have the ability to combine all of these functions into a single piece of equipment. Imagine driving down the street and having your cell phone/handheld computer signal you when you are approaching a bookstore on your list of places you need to visit or, more importantly, signaling you where that Starbucks is located in the next block!

This technology is no longer around the corner. It is here and knocking on your door.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesman and critical-issue-response-team chairman for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is www.dfdasmiles.com. Contact him by email at jeff@dfdasmiles.com, by phone at (314) 567-5612, or by fax at (314) 567-9047.

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