|Year : 2000 | Volume
| Issue : 2 | Page : 140-148
Urology on the internet - introduction and update
Inumpudi Anand, M Srinivas, AK Hemal
Departments of Urology and Pediatric Surgery; All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
A K Hemal
Department of Urology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
| Abstract|| |
The Internet, which has truly united the developed and developing nations, is an extensive network of inter-linked computers storing immense bytes of information, which can be accessed by anyone transcending all geographical barriers and this has become the ultimate frontier to access information. The Urology and Andrology information on Internet is exponentially growing. The urologist need not know the intricacies of the hardware and software but can start right away navigating through this web. We reviewed methods available to take advantage of this network to provide a glimpse to busy urologists to accrue the benefits easily and efficiently rather than to be lost in the information-ocean by surfing individually. By getting connected to Internet, an urologist of any part of the world gains enormous information by interacting with other urologists of the rest of the world. This could be of use to gain knowledge and to offer the best and the most modern treatment to the patient. Internet has revolutionised the scientific publication by virtue of its faster and accurate transmission of manuscripts. We can send manuscripts by this channel and also access journals obviating the lag period inherent in snail mail. The on-line journals have virtually brought the library to the desktop.
Keywords: Internet; Urology; Electronic Publishing
|How to cite this article:|
Anand I, Srinivas M, Hemal A K. Urology on the internet - introduction and update. Indian J Urol 2000;16:140-8
| Introduction|| |
Over the last decade or so, the Internet has evolved into the ideal medium for sharing information. Recent advancements in computer hardware, software and high bandwidth transmission media have made it a cheap and convenient communications solution for data of all kinds. Health professionals and institutions are among the most active users of the Internet. Medical information on the Internet is growing rapidly. , The urologist stands to gain much by participating in this forum. There are innumerable resources on the Internet related to Urology and the associated disciplines of Andrology and Reproductive Medicine. , Thanks to the Internet, concepts such as telemedicine which were once considered futuristic are finally being put into practice. Electronic publishing and transfer of manuscripts on the Internet have ushered in a new paradigm for scientific journals and literature.  It is therefore imperative that the urologist be aware of the Internet and its scope.
This article is intended for busy urologists to help them reap the benefits of the Internet without surfing too much for locating the resources.
The Internet - Concept and History
The Internet is a vast web of interconnected computer networks that are in geographically diverse locations. Computers can exchange information only if there is consensus about the set of rules that governs data transfer. Any such definition of rules is known as a "Protocol" in computer jargon. Irrespective of the native hardware and software, all computers on the Internet communicate using data communications protocols known as Transmission Control Protocol/Internetworking Protocol (TCP/IP). This suite of protocols evolved from work on an experimental network called ARPANET set up by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the United States Department of Defence in 1969. Each resource on the Internet is identified by a unique address known as a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). For instance, the web site of the American Urological Association can be found at http:// www.auanet.org/. Everybody on the Internet uses the same URL to access a resource irrespective of his or her geographical location relative to the computer hosting that resource.
Getting Connected to the Internet
Institutions which need to be continuously online and serve their own content should procure a high bandwidth leased line from the local Internet Service Provider (ISP). For personal use, commercial ISPs offer dial up TCP/IP accounts to individual subscribers. In this arrangement, the user connects to the ISP through a modem and a regular telephone line. Dial-up connections have a maximum data transfer rate of 56 kilobits per second (kbps). Higher bandwidth solutions for individual use are ISDN (Integrated Systems Digital Network), cable modems and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines (ADSL). Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) and direct satellite links are used in remote locations. Hardware and software requirements are hard to specify since a number of processors and operating systems are available. For individual use, a computer with a Pentium processor, 16 MB of RAM, I GB of hard disk capacity, colour monitor, 16 bit sound card and 56 kbps modem is adequate. Operating systems such as Windows 9x have built-in support for dial-up networking and the TCP/IP protocols. Popular Web Browsers and E-mail Clients are available for free download on the Internet.
Internet services may be classified under the following headings:
An e-mail account is a secure password-protected electronic mail box that has a unique address, usually in the following format:
user name@host name. type of organization.country code (e.g., email@example.com ) or user name@host name. top level domain (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org )
Anybody on the Internet can send e-mail to another user just by knowing his or her e-mail address. The addressee can read the e-mail after being authenticated by the computer hosting the mailbox, using a password. E-mail may contain text or file "attachments" containing any data (e.g..sound, video, formatted documents, and executable files).
Most ISPs provide an e-mail account along with the subscription for Internet access. Alternatively, one may sign up for an account with any of the numerous free email services available on the Internet that are accessible through the World Wide Web. The following site has an exhaustive list of such services: www.emailaddresses.com .
Depending on the e-mail service provider, mail may be used online by using a web browser or downloaded to the user's computer using e-mail clients which employ protocols such as Post Office Protocol (POP) or Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP).
Mailing lists facilitate discussions on specific topics by forwarding mail received at a particular location to all the e-mail addresses on that list. This makes it easier to communicate information to several interested people without having to know each of their e-mail addresses. It is possible to subscribe to mailing lists, which carry on discussions about a variety of topics. Such user groups allow rapid and reliable communication of developments among professionals in a field such as Andrology.  The following site allows users to search for mailing lists and news groups related to a particular topic: wwwliszt.com. [Table 1] enlists the mailing lists related to Urology.
This is similar to the concept of mailing lists but messages are not mailed directly to subscribers. Instead, interested users may log on to a Network News Server and read or post messages on a particular topic in its appropriate category.
The World Wide Web
The World Wide Web (WWW) refers to documents available on the Internet which are written in a page for matting language called Hyper Text Mark-up Language (HTML). The paradigm of a web is used because it is possible to place "links" on one HTML document which point to other Web pages (another name for HTML documents) and resources on the Internet by providing their URL. For instance, an HTML document on Urology can provide a link to another site that has a more elaborate discussion on surgery of the prostate. The user viewing the Urology page only has to click on the link (which is usually represented underlined and in a different colour to differentiate it from the rest of the text) to access the page on prostate surgery. Links can also be provided to e-mail addresses, news groups, pictures, data files, and audio/video resources. In this way a rich network or "web" of related Internet resources is available to the user.
Browsers are programs used to interpret these HTML documents and render them in a readable format. Two of the most commonly used browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator. Technology known as the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) allows users to interact dynamically with a website by using forms written in HTML. This ability makes Web pages the ideal interface for accessing large indexed information resources such as libraries, archives of data (e.g., clinical case studies, past news group discussions, etc.) and indeed any resource which needs to be searched methodically such as the MEDLINE (a massive index of articles which have appeared in international medical and surgical journals). Urology dedicated sites are listed in [Table 2]. Information resources related to Urology and Andrology are listed in [Table 3],[Table 4],[Table 5],[Table 6],[Table 7] respectively.
Most academic institutions, hospitals and associations host their own "home page" on the Internet. An institution's home page is an HTML document or group of linked documents that usually offer information about its organization and resources. For instance the home page of a university might contain information about its courses with applications which can be filled and submitted when still on-line. In addition it could include information about the faculty and contain links to the home pages of the individual departments. Popular Urology associations, Urology departments, Andrology associations and departments are listed in [Table 4],[Table 5],[Table 8],[Table 9] respectively.
Although the medical information available on the web has proliferated at a remarkable rate, the quality of the information is often variable' and one should exercise discretion before placing faith in it.
File Transfer Protocol & TELNET
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a TCP/IP protocol which can be used to transfer files between computers on the Internet. TELNET is another protocol which allows users to issue commands to a remotely situated computer over the Internet. Both protocols are extensively used by institutions such as libraries to offer public access to electronically stored texts.
FTP offers a secure and error-free method of transferring large volumes of medical data such as radiological images, clinical case reports and also journal articles.
Internet has reduced the communication gap to virtually nil by filling the gap between the office of the authors on one hand and the Editorial office on the other. Today manuscripts can be instantaneously delivered to the concerned editors and from there the manuscripts can be passed on to the concerned reviewers by e-mail as an attachment. This would save the precious paper and reduce the delay inherent in the post which is aptly described as snail mail. Many journals are on-line and offer access to the abstract and index and some are even available free on line. Sites of Urology and Andrology journals are noted in [Table 6],[Table 10] respectively.
Intersex disorders are having wider surgical, ethical and legal complexities and are handled by Paediatric Urologists. This area needs better interaction between the experts from the various parts of the world and the popular sites are listed in [Table 11].
Newer Types of Resources
Java: Java is a semi-interpreted platform independent programming language which is widely used on the Internet. Unlike CGI programs which execute on the server (the computer hosting the web page), Java programs are downloaded by the browser along with the HTML page and executed on the local machine.
Streaming Audio/Video: Recent improvements in the processing capacity of computers have permitted the implementation of rigorous algorithms for compressing and decompressing sound and full motion video. Coupled with the increases in bandwidth, this has led to the ability to receive audio and video in real time over the Internet. This has major implications for telemedicine and video-conferencing. Many events are relayed live on the Internet using this technology.
VRML: Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) documents allow the representation of functional three dimensional structures using a plain text file which can be transmitted over the Internet. A VRML browser can be used to render the object and explore it interactively. Anatomical structures may also be modelled to aid the explanation of surgical techniques for instance.
The potential of the Internet is still largely untapped in medical applications. Medical Informatics has gained the status of an independent discipline only recently and academic research in this field has already gained impetus. There are a number of telemedicine (teleradiology, telepathology, home telecare and teleconferencing) projects being implemented and evaluated.  It is estimated that 25% of the usage of health care technology in the next 5 years will be to access medical records via the Internet.  Studies have shown that patient images and records can be transmitted via the Internet cheaply and conveniently without compromising diagnostic accuracy.  Virtual Hospitals are available on the Internet which simulate real patients and facilitate distance education. 
The Internet is growing at an amazing pace, not only in size but also technologically. There is no doubt that the Internet will dominate the use of information technology in health care in the years to come. The large number of online resources and discussions related to Urology is evidence of the active role being played by urologists world-wide in adopting this technology. Besides being the handiest source of educational resources and scientific updates on the subject, the Internet is also the perfect platform to forge friendship between urologists across political and geographic boundaries. It will become the best choice for fast and error-free manuscript transmission. 
Some of the most interesting and informative discussions on health-related topics take place on Internet. As more and more hospitals, educational and research institutions get connected to Internet, a very healthy collaboration is emerging.
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[Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7], [Table 8], [Table 9], [Table 10], [Table 11]