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Use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in clinical education / practice

Ng'ambi, Dick; Njenga, Kennedy


The faculty of Health Sciences (HS) at the University of Cape Town embarked on the new curriculum in 2001. The new HS programme is structured into two phases: the mainly pre-clinical phase where the biopsychosocial is predominant with limited clinical practice learning (1st – 3rd year: Semester 1-5) and the clinical phase where clinical practice learning is predominant (4th –7th year: Semester 6-9). The clinical phase comprises more of service learning than the pre-clinical phase with students spending most of their time in hospitals and clinics etc. During the clinical phase students spend much less
time on the HS campus and therefore do not have frequent access to the HS labs, and do not have access to Internet-connected computer facilities at sites.
Thus, a joint project was mooted between the Education Development Unit (EDU) and the Centre for Educational Technology to explore ways in which Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can support the challenges of teaching and learning in the clinical phase of the MBChB programme.
The project had two inter-related phases. The first phase aimed at the gaining a general overview based on literature on ICT usage trends in medical practice and education. The second phase was to build on the findings of the first phase to undertake a detailed study. The general overview involved desk research of the medical field in relation to ICTs. The following databases were consulted for their relevance in the medical field: EBSCOHost (= a search engine for a number of databases; the following were selected: MEDLINE, Academic Search Premier, Health Source, ERIC, CINAHL, Pre-CINAHL,
General Science Abstracts, MLA International Bibliography, MLA Directory of Periodicals, EJS E-Journals); Pubmed (accessed from the Health Sciences Library site:; MD Consult; Science Direct;  Silverplatte; Sabinet; Ovid (accessed from the Health Sciences Library site); Biblioline (African Health Anthology); Thomson Gale; ISI Web of Knowledge; JSTOR; Swetswise; Wisconsin Medical Society journal (; and National Library of Medicine (USA) ( The results of the first phase were that “there is overwhelming evidence in the literature that the most widely recognized potential of technology both in medical education and clinical
practice is in mobile technology – PDAs and other handheld computers; PDAs are regarded to have gained the same importance in medical practice as the stethoscope”. As a consequence of the finding we began to wonder about the
following: how much of the reported PDA usage is happening in resource poor environments? And in what ways are these technologies (PDAs) being effectively used in the varying contexts? The second phase was dedicated to finding answers to these questions, and this report is an outcome thereof.

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Document Title: Use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in clinical education / practice
City and Country: Cape Town

Document Type:Research Report (Not Peer Reviewed)
Subject Area:Teaching and Learning
Country:South Africa
Keywords:Information & Communication Technology ICT, Computer Mediated Communication, Medical Training, University of Cape Town UCT, South Africa

File Size:545 KB
Additional information:Research report of a joint project between the Education Development Unit ( EDU ) and the Centre for Educational Technology ( CET ), University of Cape Town
Date Added:01 February 2007

Ng'ambi, Dick; Njenga, Kennedy (2006). Use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) in clinical education / practice: literature review. A joint project between the Education Development Unit ( EDU ) and the Centre for Educational Technology , University of Cape Town