NetlinesBMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7089.1257 (Published 26 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1257
- Mark Pallen
The year 2000—are you ready?
Recent news reports have highlighted the problem of the year 2000. In case you missed them, the problem is that many computer systems will fail to work properly after 1 January 2000 because they store years in two digit format (such as 97, 98, 99) and will think that they are suddenly in the year 1900. The worst case scenario includes empty supermarket shelves, planes grounded, traffic system malfunctions, and power cuts accompanied by a stock market crash and economic depression as business failures cascade through the economy and faith in financial and banking systems plummets (ftp://www.year2000.com/pub/year2000/y2kfaq.txt).
Medical computer systems may also be vulnerable, so make sure your computer support services department is taking the problem seriously now. For more information, visit the Year 2000 Information Center on www.year2000.com/ or the UK Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency's Millennium Bomb Home Page (www.open.gov.uk/ccta/mill/mbhome.htm).
Coming soon to a medical school near you
Hot on the heels of the recent research assessment exercise (http://back.niss.ac.uk/education/hefc/rae96/c1_96.html) comes a similar exercise aimed at assessing the quality of medical education in England and Northern Ireland, which will take place between 1998 and 2000. In case you haven't received the copious warnings and guidance in dead tree format, you can get a glimpse of what is to come on www.niss.ac.uk/education/hefce/pub97/c3_97.html.
British general practice on line
British general practitioners are moving on line—see http://www.ncl.ac.uk/~nphcare/GPUK/a_herd/practice.htm for a list of practice web pages. There are now several British web sites devoted to general practice, including UK Primary Care (http://www.ukpc.org/pub/about.htm), the West Midlands General Practice Home Page (http://medweb.bham.ac.uk/bc/RAGP.html), and the Royal College of General Practitioners web site (http://www.rcgp.org.uk/). The electronic journal General Practice On-Line is on www.priory.co.uk/journals/gp.htm, and British general practitioners have their own mailing list, GP-UK (www.ncl.ac.uk/~nphcare/GPUK/gpukhome.html). A link on the GP-UK site takes you to the UKMedW3 web pages (http://www.ncl.ac.uk/~nphcare/GPUK/a_herd/topmenu.htm), which form an excellent starting point for exploring medicine on the web.
Cloned sheep in cyberspace?
If you are worried or excited about the ramifications of cloning sheep take a look at the press release at the Roslin Institute (http://www.ri.bbsrc.ac.uk/library/research/cloned.html) or try the special report on the newly revamped New Scientist web site on www.newscientist.com/nsplus/insight/clone/clone.html. If, instead, you want to get inside the mind of Dolly, the sheep, try dissecting her brain using the Sheep Brain Dissection Guide on http://academic.uofs.edu/department/psych/sheep/. And if you want more puns like the one above, try PUN NET on http://www.grfn.org/~matt/pun-net.html.
Self help on the net
Many people turn to the Internet for emotional support to help them cope with chronic diseases, psychological disorders, and even simple loneliness. Often they receive help and accurate advice; sometimes they are misled or made worse by their experiences on line. The stronger the medical presence on line, the more likely it is for good advice and information to prevail. To sample the emotional support facilities available on the net see www.lib.ox.ac.uk/internet/news/faq/archive/support.emotional.resources-list.html. You may even wish to recommend some of the resources to your patients.
Mental Health Net
Mental Health Net (www.cmhc.com/) claims to be the largest, most comprehensive guide to mental health on line, featuring over 6000 individual resources. The award winning site carries information on disorders such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, chronic fatigue syndrome, and substance misuse. In addition, there are professional resources in psychology, psychiatry, and social work, together with journals and self help magazines.
Web authoring made simple
If you want to start putting your own material on to the web, you will need to master HTML, the language used to create web pages—web page creation programs exist but don't give you as much control over the product. The NCSA Beginner's Guide to HTML (www.ncsa.uiuc.edu/General/Internet/WWW/HTMLPrimer.html) and the Yale Style guide (http://info.med.yale.edu/caim/manual/) will help get you started. If they are not enough then several dozen more HTML guides and tutorials are listed on the UK Yahoo site on www.yahoo.co.uk/Computers_and_Internet/Information_and_Documentation/Data_Formats/HTML/Guides_and_Tutorials/.
Once you have polished off HTML, you may want to try creating CGI scripts to bring interactivity to your web pages. Try the Guide to HTML and CGI scripts by Mike Smith at Brighton University on http://snowwhite.it.brighton.ac.uk/~mas/mas/courses/html/html.html.
MSc in medical informatics
The University of Teeside is advertising an MSc in medical informatics to start in September 1997. The course is designed for people working in the health service and consists of a collection of one week short courses (many also available as stand alone courses) and a major project. For more information, see www-scm.tees.ac.uk/courses/masters/.