The Internet is one of the greatest developments in informational exchange during the past century. It allows almost anyone to access information available throughout the world. Nonetheless, the Internet is often misunderstood by physicians. It can be considered a super computer network that allows users to transfer a wide variety of information at a low cost. The information can be transferred through functions such as electronic mail, file transfer protocols, the Usenet, or the most widely recognized World Wide Web. Electronic mail functions like the usual postal service but is carried through the Internet, and delivery is usually within the hour. It can serve as a method of communication between physicians and patients. File transfer protocols function as a method for transferring large amounts of information such as software through the Internet. The Usenet acts like an international bulletin board service, allowing users anywhere to post messages and to respond to messages from other users. Several patient support groups have Usenet sites for exchanging specific disease information. The World Wide Web has received the greatest attention because most of the information on the Internet is text, sound, or pictures. Numerous medical organizations have established Web sites. This article attempts to describe each of these functions and the benefits to physicians.
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