October 2002 Bulletin

A PDA orthopaedic library

Electronic journals in your pocket

Jay D. Mabrey, MD

Personal digital assistants (PDAs) have finally matured to a point where the average orthopaedic surgeon will actually find one useful and timesaving.

So don’t read any further unless you have $650 burning a hole in your pocket.

Trust someone whose pockets have been burned by a Newton, three Palms and an overpriced HP Jornada, now is the time to invest in a PDA. I’m talking mobile library like you’ve never imagined it—current articles and textbooks in your pocket, literally, and at your fingertips anywhere you travel. No lugging around even a three-pound laptop. We’re talking 6.5-ounce shirt-pocket technology with a display that goes way beyond the old date book. PDAs now have 240x320 pixel screens that display 64,000 colors and the memory to support it: 64 MB of RAM (random access memory), 32 MB of read only memory (ROM) and a 128 MB expansion slot.

But hardware is only half of what has made the electronic publishing revolution possible; the other half is the "reader" software and database programs that are now available for Palm and Pocket PCs.

Three major players

Three major players cover most of the market: Acrobat© Reader© from Adobe® www.adobe.com, that works with Palm and Pocket PC devices; Mobipocket www.mobipocket.com, a French company that runs on Palm, Pocket PC and Psion devices; and Microsoft Reader© www.microsoft.com/ reader/info/ppc.asp, which only works with a Pocket PC. A fourth, proprietary solution, SkyScape® www.skyscape. com, supports a small but useful group of medical texts for both Palm and Pocket PC devices.

For orthopaedic surgeons, The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, and Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, all appear on the Internet in Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF). Adobe PDF preserves the fonts, formatting, graphics and color of the source document and can be shared, viewed, navigated and printed exactly as intended by utilizing free Adobe Acrobat Reader© software that works with both Palm and Pocket PC devices.

Of course, you’ll need a current subscription to those journals to download the PDF files, but once you’ve transferred them to your handheld, they’re available anywhere you take your PDA.

I found I could scan the abstracts online, download the PDF files of those articles that interested me, and store the data files on my Compaq iPAQ within a few minutes. And those PDF files contain all of the photos, tables and references of the original documents. Publishers can provide these files at no extra expense because the same PDF file that generated the original printed article is the one that downloads onto your PDA.

Other useful medical references

In addition to these three journals, I’ve also downloaded four useful medical references onto my PDA: HBFrac™ (Handbook of Fractures), Wash Mnl™ (The Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics, 30th Edition), 5mOrtho™ (The 5-Minute Orthopaedic Consult), and DrDrugs™ (Davis’s Drug Guide for Physicians)—all published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins and available for purchase through www.handango.com, an online clearing house for a wide variety of PDA software and texts. All four electronic books are formatted in SkyScape and are cross-linked with SkyScape’s patent-pending smARTlink Technology. SmARTlink cross-indexes all drug references in the Handbook of Fractures and The Washington Manual with Davis’s Drug Guide.

Similarly, references to gout, rheumatoid arthritis, etc., in The Washington Manual are cross-indexed with both the Handbook of Fractures and The 5-Minute Orthopedic Consult.

All four references have proved useful as teaching tools for medical students in our clinic, as well as for the ward. The diagrams are easily visible on the bright PDA screen as is the text.

The Academy offers a PDA version of the popular Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care textbook. Also, look for Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care Quick Tips, 2nd Edition, http://www5.aaos.org/products/eqt/info.cfm, for residents and primary care colleagues. In addition, look for The Clinical Measurement of Joint Motion, an Academy publication, in e-Book format at the 2003 Annual Meeting. There are also other projects under consideration, including examination programs and short lectures.

Jay D. Mabrey, MD, is an associate professor of orthopaedics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, and chair, Electronic Media Education Committee. He can be reached at (210) 567-6297 or at mabrey@uthscsa.edu.


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