Web Magazine for Information Professionals

OMNI Corner: New Societies for the Exploitation of Medicine on the Internet

Sue Welsh looks at developments of interest to medics publishing on the Internet.

The British Medical Internet Association

One Saturday morning last December I found myself on an early train bound for Birmingham Airport, one of the more soulless destinations offered to the Intercity traveller. Working for OMNI, weekends have long since ceased to be sacrosanct, but on my way to the Midlands, I felt I had more than the usual cause to sigh heavily as the train was, inevitably, delayed. However, the trip was proved to be well worth the effort, as it offered the opportunity to meet the movers and shakers and witness the birth of the British Medical Internet Association.

The British Medical Internet Association (BMIA) seeks “the advancement of health care through the application of Internet technologies” and is committed to a cross-disciplinary membership from all with an interest in the application of Internet technologies in health care. Formed by a small number of regulars from the gp-uk [1] mailing list on Mailbase, in September 1996, the Association officially launched on 17th February this year, with a constitution, a working process and 35 members.

Fostering partnerships and collaborative working is a key aim of the BMIA, and they have launched with some proposals already in place. (One involves collaboration between OMNI and BMIA to build reviews of Internet resources; combining the experience of OMNI in this field and the expertise of BMIA members [2].)

BMIA may also make recommendations of Internet issues relevant to medicine, “when general consensus has been reached among the membership”. The BMIA recommendation on quality standards for medical publishing on the Web is already available and provides an sensible basis for quality assurance for medics currently involved in writing and publishing on the Internet [3].

More information about joining BMIA can be found on the BMIA Web site [4], which offers a good selection of information about the association, work in progress and plans for the future to non-members, as well as a private section available to members only. If you want to hear more before you part with your membership fee, the BMIA will be out in force at the Healthcare Computing 1997 conference in Harrogate in March.

MedNet/The Society for the Internet in Medicine

In the middle of October last year a large multi-national and multi-disciplinary group of delegates gathered in Brighton on the south coast of England to take part in Mednet 96, the European Congress on the Internet in Medicine. Delegate Ramsey Badawi comments:

“It was an exciting event to participate in - it is rare that such a varied group of medical professionals assemble in one place with such a common purpose. Aside from the scientific programme [5] perhaps the most significant step taken at the conference was the creation by the delegates of the Society for the Internet in Medicine.”

The avowed purpose of the Society is to “promote the education of the public and the medical community in the application of the Internet and related technologies in the fields of medical science, practice and management”. The Society’s efforts so far have focused on organisation of Mednet 97, and this will take place in Brighton again on 3-6 November this year. Mednet 97 will include a parallel virtual conference, and the Internet community will be able to participate directly in discussions on the presented work. More information is available on the Web [6].

The Society home page will go live in the next couple of weeks. It will contain, amongst other things, a guide to searching the Internet for medical information written by OMNI’s own Frank Norman. The Society will also be producing a quarterly web-based journal about the Internet in medicine, the first issue of which will be out by April 30th 1997.

As well as providing a forum for interested professionals, the Society aims to assist the general public in making the most of the medical resources on the Internet. The Society also has an international focus, and people from over 30 countries have already expressed interest. Currently negotiations are proceeding with the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA) and the European Federation for Medical Informatics (EFMI) regarding collaborative projects aimed at helping developing countries to make the most of Internet technologies in medicine.

Membership of the Society is open to both professionals and members of the public - it is also open to organisations, institutions and companies interested in furthering its aims. More information about membership can be found at the Mednet Website [7].


  1. GP-UK mailing list; this facilitates discussion on new ideas, research, workshops, seminars, conferences, grants, education, software development etc for the UK General Practice (Family Medicine) community,
  2. British Medical Internet Association Working Groups; Web Reviews section,
  3. BMIA-REC-Quality Standards for Medical Publishing on the Web- 7/12/96,
  4. British Medical Internet Association Web Site,
  5. Schedule for the European Congress of the Internet in Medicine Conference,
  6. World Congress of the Internet in Medicine Web Site,
  7. Society for the Internet in Medicine Web Site,

Author Details

Sue Welsh
Project officer,
OMNI eLib project.
Email: swelsh@nimr.mrc.ac.uk
Tel: 0181 959 3666 ext 2536
Web pages for OMNI: http://www.omni.ac.uk/