The Impact Of Informatics

Shopping around the internet today and tomorrow: towards the millennium of cybermedicine

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.319.7220.1294 (Published 13 November 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:1294
  1. Gunther Eysenbach, researcher (ey@yi.com)a,
  2. Eun Ryoung Sa, fellowb,
  3. Thomas L Diepgen, chairmana
  1. a Unit for Cybermedicine, Department of Clinical Social Medicine, University of Heidelberg, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany
  2. b Global Health Network Group, Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, United States
  1. Correspondence to: G Eysenbach

    “The world wide web is the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human knowledge” (W3C)

    The evolution of the “information age” in medicine is mirrored in the exponential growth of medical web pages, increasing numbers of databases accessible on line, and expanding services and publications available on the internet. The handful of computers linked by the predecessor of the internet in 1969 has grown to more than 5 million websites today. In spring 1998, the world wide web had at least 320 million web pages of general content.1 In addition, there are countless conversational areas on the internet, like chat rooms and newsgroups, where people exchange messages on tens of thousands of subjects. Somewhere more than 150 million people currently communicate over the internet2 According to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), however, the rapid “hypergrowth” of the web from 1992 to mid-1995 has now somewhat slowed to roughly gaining an order of magnitude “only” every 30 months.3

    Medical information is often said to be one of the most retrieved types of information on the web. In fact, according to a survey of October 1998, 27% of female and 15% of male internet users say that they access medical information weekly or daily.4 An interesting observation from this and other surveys5 is that health and medical content seems to be one of only a few categories on line that women are more likely to use than men.

    Summary points

    More than 100 000 medical websites exist, and their number is still growing rapidly

    “Cybermedicine” is a new academic specialty at the crossroads of medical informatics and public health, studying applications of the internet and global networking technologies to medicine and public health, examining the impact and implications of the internet, and evaluating opportunities and the challenges …

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