It used to be that when doctors prescribed a new drug, it meant hitting the reference books to see how the new prescription would interact with medications a patient was already taking.
Not anymore. Increasingly sophisticated mobile technology means that doctors can carry vast drug reference guides, patient charts and even full textbooks in the palms of their hands.
Greg Rosencrance, chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine at West Virginia University's Charleston medical campus, uses the hospital's wireless network to regularly download X-rays, test results and other information about his patients while making his rounds.
"It can be extremely helpful," he said. "There's no way anyone can carry this much information around in their head."
As personal digital assistants become more common in everyday life, doctors and nurses are making use of the technology not just for address books and e-mail, but as a constant part of their practice.
"It's become as important as my stethoscope," said Daniel Diamond, a family physician in Silverdale, Wash. "Actually, if I forget my stethoscope, I can just borrow another. If I forget my PDA, I go home and get it."
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