The Internet is growing explosively, particularly its most popular and easy to use service, the World Wide Web (known as "the Web") can deliver quality health and medical information conveniently and efficiently to your desktop. Regardless of where you are? at home or in your office, in an urban area or rural? you have at-your-fingertips access to people and information throughout the world. With just a computer and Internet access, and some basic Internet skills, you have the powerful ability to be in touch with people, information, materials, and research without the limitations of geographical distances or differences in time zones between you and the remote source.

What Healthcare Professionals can do on the Internet

The work the professional can accomplish on the Internet:

·   Communicate inexpensively with colleagues, clients, friends, and family worldwide.

·   Search authoritative databases easily and inexpensively.

·   Keep track of research in progress.

·   Deliver or obtain basic and continuing medical education and training.

·   Market a healthcare organization or medical educational institution.

·   Provide healthcare consumers, including patients and their families, with information and customer services.   

                Professional workers can use resources that until recently were available only in the better-equipped medical libraries. They can join colleagues with similar interests in online communities. They can "talk" in real time through Web "chat" and other online meeting facilities. The Internet is also a tremendous source of medical and health information, from simple facts to research in progress.

What Healthcare Consumers Can do on the Internet

What the healthcare consumer will find on the Internet:

·   Physician and hospital information.

·   Wellness, fitness, and diet information.

·   Disease information and support.

·   Injury information and support.

·   Women’s special health issues.

·   Men’s special health issues.

·   Children’s special health issues.

·   Prescription drug information.

                Lay consumers now have ready access to research and information that enable them to play a greater role in decisions about their own or their loved ones' medical treatments and health maintenance. Patients and their families can get information from the Internet about a hospital's policies and procedures, and about illnesses and treatments. They can send email to an ask-an-expert service, to healthcare professionals, and even to other people with similar health problems.

It's Easier to Stay Current on the Internet

The flow of information in medicine is similar to that in other scientific areas. Medical information is sought and received through both formal and informal channels.  For more recent information, formal channels include medical journals, dissertations, conference proceedings, meeting reports, and bibliographic and full-text databases (indexes and abstract services). For older materials, formal channels include monographs, handbooks, textbooks, and encyclopedias. All of these traditional types of resources can be found on the Internet, with the special benefit that the older information, when in print, is static, whereas online, it can be kept current.

                Informal channels traditionally include in-person meetings, conferences, face-to-face conversations, correspondence, and telephone conversations. Informal sources are often used because they offer applied and specific information on an issue rather than generalized knowledge from books and articles, which require synthesis by the reader. A telephone call to a colleague seems quicker and more efficient than a trip to the library (which may be quite distant) or a search through one's own journal collection. Today, the Internet is an excellent source for the efficient delivery of this kind of communication.

The Internet Delivers Specialized Inform-ation and Services

Types of specialized information and services on the Internet:

·         Formal and informal continuing medical education.

·         Searchable medical libraries at remote locations.

·         Databases of research, diagnostic, and treatment information on diseases, injuries, and hundreds of other specific topics.

·         Databases of grants and funding information.

·         Databases of patient information and support.

        On the Internet you can quickly find materials, information, and services that formerly took weeks, or longer, to acquire. Instead of having to travel to the source location, or waiting for materials to arrive in the mail, or even doing without because you didn't know the information existed or because it wasn't easy to make available, you can access an increasing amount of this information with a click of your mouse. And the quality is improving daily. In particular, the formal and informal continuing medical education activities using the Internet are very promising. At hundreds of medical school Web sites, as well as other healthcare organization sites, you can find materials that support basic and continuing education as well as healthcare consumer education. We should try to equip ourselves with the advancing technology as these will become daily practices soon.

Ibrahim Mansoor, MBBS

Department of Pathology

King Abdul Aziz University Hospital

P.O.Box 1432, Jeddah 21431

Saudi Arabia