Susan Davis’ post this past Thursday commented on the screed by “Panda Bear, MD” a 2nd year emergency medicine resident who doesn’t find any value in PDAs. Paper and pen work fine for him. He loved PDAs at first, but now “I have grown to dislike the complexity of the device, especially downloading software which never seems to work for me and my seven-year-old Toshiba laptop”. He claims not to be a Luddite – one comment on his blog wondered whether he was still running DOS on his computer! A seven year old computer is not compatible with the new software and hardware – too bad, but stuff changes. Maybe that’s why he can’t get real functionality out of the device.
For an EM resident, these devices may not be a good tool. For a private practice physician going from hospital to office to home, they may be a useful tool. There are programs that enable the physician to record the essential contact information for billing purposes. Some hospitals will download up to date demographics of all patients in the hospitals where the physician is the attending or the referring physician. Then there are the PDR modules, among others.
As with any technological tool, it all depends on the individual. I don’t use a PDA either – for me, it doesn’t add value. I have few meetings, and my system for tracking projects is more visually based, which meets my personal brain configuration. I don’t travel enough to need instant access to email – it can wait until I’m in an airport or the hotel.
When I was running a practice, the physicians covering the hospitals (a week at a time) kept index cards on each patient, complete with basic notes. If they lost the cards, of course, they would be in trouble. But the system worked pretty well. They also carried a 3 x 5 book of forms to complete for billing. Would a PDA based system work better? Maybe. Or not.
PDAs are what they are. It’s a mobile device, which can be a great resource for someone whose work is mobile. For someone who works in one physical setting, it may not be an asset. I had one family practice client, office based only, who used a tablet PC for his work, accessing patient records, billing, etc. It worked for him.
As for Panda Bear – I also read some of his other posts. By his own account, he had problems with his first residency and has to repeat his internship year. At least one supervising resident found that Panda Bear’s work was characterized by a “lack of enthusiasm, my unwillingness to take on additional work, and my generally bad attitude.” Panda Bear whines about everything, from addicts, to call, to long hours, to paperwork, to “scut work”. He strikes me as, well, somewhat haughty in his tone, self-centered and downright rude. He also claims to be a “former Marine infantryman”. Ask any Marine – once a Marine, always a Marine. There are no “former” Marines. As for being an “infantryman” – hmm, aren’t Marines “riflemen”? (I have a call into Marine Corps headquarters to check on this detail. A Marine ROTC cadet tells me I’m right, but I’ll still confirm – or be wrong).
Every person has to find their own way to manage their work life. We all need to use email and search tools, and a cell phone needs to be in reach. But personal management devices vary among individuals – it’s a matter of whether you can get accurate, current information quickly. What works well for an individual depends on the way that person works, the way they process information, the type of work they do and where they do it.
Time to update my “to do” list yellow pad.