Hand surgeons, like all people, benefit from networking - for personal support, problem solving, practice building, exchanging tips and tricks, sharing referral sources, and working on projects and problems which can only be solved through the efforts of an organized group. Traditionally, physician networking is done face to face in the hospital, the operating room, on the phone, and at meetings. The Internet provides a other avenues through which people can network: chat groups, list serves, newsletter subscriptions, and Web sites representing common concerns. It provides the potential for free, unrestricted access to physicians to share, organize, and participate on a global scale: organized medicine in the truest sense.
The internet hand surgery community is growing through a number of venues. Increasingly, traditional surgical specialty societies are providing Internet based lines of communication. E-organizations are developing which are based primarily or entirely through the Internet, such as the Internet Society of Orthopedic Surgery and Trauma (ISOST) and Orthogate. These groups provide infrastructure for individual support (e.g. case presentation and discussion), medical education, and the potential for multinational coordination of research projects, outreach programs, and disaster relief. Interplast, which sponsors volunteer hand surgery outreach programs to needy countries, has begun organizing its volunteer physician workforce online (28). Some hand surgery community sites are listed in Table 7.