The Internet is a Network of Networks, a vast international group of connected computers. And, most importantly, it is available to all of us in veterinary practice and offers unlimited access to colleagues, continuing education and a variety of resource materials.
Currently there are around 500 million users on the Internet and the network is growing by 1,000 computers a day! Veterinarians are also going on-line at a frantic pace and it is sometimes difficult and even a little baffling to navigate the wonders of the Internet and find the information you really want. There are also real concerns about investing in a practice web site, and using the Internet for marketing purposes.
E-mail is the most used feature on the Internet. You can send messages or files anywhere in the world without cost and send those messages to one person or a whole group. Sending messages to 1,000 people takes no more time than sending to one. Hence the plague of "junk e-mail" to which we are now exposed.
Reflective mail allows you to be on a "mailing list" with people of similar interests. There are several services that offer mailing lists for veterinary medicine. Other newsgroups and forums require you to actually "visit" a specific site on the Internet to exchange ideas and comments.
The World Wide Web (WWW) is a feature on the Internet that brings all of the audiovisual qualities of television right into your computer with one major advantage. Sites on the WWW are typically "linked" with similar sites so you can start at one point and leapfrog along to a variety of sites that might be of interest. This is what is commonly referred to a 'surfing the net.' One of the other features of the WWW is that there are a variety of "search engines" to help you find what you're looking for. The search engines are superior to printed indexes because, when you see a site of interest, you just need to click on it (not plug in an address) and you're instantly there.
Another feature of use to veterinarians is how to locate a colleague on this vast network of computers. There isn't a real yellow page listing of everybody using the Internet, but there are some directories that are a good place to start.
Veterinarians not only like to 'surf the net' but many are making a presence on the Web with their own Web pages. With new software now available, web pages can be created without specific knowledge of HTML, the computer language of the Web, just as current word processors have icons to replace basic DOS commands. There are also several sites at which you can register your own domain name or process it through your current Internet provider. For the economy-minded, it's also possible to piggyback your web site on other sites without incurring any major expense. With an increased web presence by veterinarians, new techniques need to be utilized to encourage local web traffic. After all, while the Web provides a global presence, most veterinarians are still interested in having their content viewed only by local potential "patrons" rather than those half a world away. This requires savvy marketing to reach a local audience with a global medium.
© 2004 Lowell Ackerman DVM DACVD MBA MPA. Part of this material has been taken from Dr. Ackerman's Veterinary Guide to the Internet, which is found at www.bizvet.com, and may not be reproduced without written consent of author.
1. Ackerman, L: Dr. Ackerman's Veterinary Guide to the Internet, 2004. www.bizvet.com