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Doctor Dotcoms

Upah adds that recently announced a Physician "Dashboard," which provides physicians with browser-based access to real-time patient results, clinical databases, eligibility verifications and much more that will be available to physicians in the third quarter of this year.

"It¹s extremely expensive to set up a Web site, and unless a doctor has the business acumen to raise millions of dollars and the willingness to subject themselves to a level of celebrity scrutiny like they¹ve never been subjected to before, they may be better-off participating in one of the initiatives already set up," he adds. was set up by the former US Surgeon General, Dr C. Everett Koop and attracted a huge following based on branding alone. Says Upah: "It certainly helps to have a recognizable brand to exist in a very cluttered environment."

Yet not every doctor needs to have star status to start a Web site. Dr Paula believes that doctors can also grow their credibility if they start a site for their own practice first.

"Invite your patients to ask the doctor a question and post the answers in an open forum. The availability of this alone will attract a crowd. If you are compassionate and competent, your site will flourish despite not having a superstar name," she says.

Dr Paula also advises doctors operating Web sites to be creative and try to avoid advertising as a revenue source.

The pediatrician, who is on the staff of three prestigious New York Hospitals, set up the site because she felt frustrated at not being able to share and teach what she does to a larger number of people. "I love my day-to-day practice but the Web has allowed me to reach out and touch a lot of Osomeones¹. The end of the road is not visible and I intend to keep it that way--good outcomes come from chasing dreams."

Similarly Dr Vadivale designed his own homepage five years ago just to see whether he could do it, and later as a means to access his favorite Web sites from anywhere.

"That all dramatically changed after the enterovirus outbreak in Sarawak in 1997. Children were dying and the public and medical community were looking for answers. I researched the information and posted it online. The response was very encouraging," he recalls. His early success prompted the Malaysian Medical Association to invite him to write a Cybermed column for the Malaysian Medical Newsletter on a regular basis. When Malaysia was hit by the regional environmental crisis, labelled with the politically-friendly termHaze, Dr Vadivale was asked by his online following to do something similar. "This time the reaction was global," he adds.

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