BACKGROUND: Handheld computers have advantages for healthcare providers including portability and integration into office workflow. However, negative patient perceptions of physician use of handheld computers in the examining room might limit integration. OBJECTIVE: To survey patients' perceptions of handheld use, and compare those with their providers' perceptions. METHODS: A survey of patient attitudes toward handhelds was conducted among patients at a low-income university clinic. Internal Medicine residents providing care were also surveyed. RESULTS: Patients (N=93) were mostly female (79%) and ethnic minorities (67%) with average age of 39. Only 10% of patients did not like the idea of a handheld computer in the exam room. Other negative attitudes were also seen in a minority of patients. Some physicians (23%) reported reservations about using the handheld computer with patients. CONCLUSIONS: Negative attitudes were rare among patients, but some providers were concerned about using the handheld in the exam room.