August 1998 Bulletin

E-mail is handy organizational tool

Electronic system can filter and sort; distribute text, X-ray images and more

By Richard E. Strain Jr., MD

The question is why use e-mail? The answer is eyeballs. Put simply, it is the fastest and most accurate way to communicate with an individual. E-mail allows an individual to send, receive, filter and sort communications in a very precise fashion. Example: how would you like to be able to find every correspondence to an insurer on one of your patients for the last two years in, let's say, 10 seconds. As one gets used to using e-mail, snail mail (U.S. mail), Fed Ex and faxes seems to pale in comparison.

E-mail allows for the distribution of not only text documents, but also complex electronic worksheets such as databases, X-ray images and numerical spreadsheets with minimal effort. E-mail can be sent not only to a single person, but also can be broadcast to an entire group like every one in the office or on a committee in different cities or in different countries with the click of a button. As one becomes more proficient with electronic mail, the value is unlimited.

In a medical practice, the key issue is the timely flow of accurate information. E-mail allows for the perfect flow of information to or from any source to the physician, patient or office staff. There are a number of orthopaedic related e-mail groups who exchange clinical information and information on computers in an absolutely free and uncensored environment.

Send one message to the group and it is automatically broadcast to the entire group. How nice it is to get the opinion of 40 different colleagues on an interesting X-ray in 12 hours. The key issue in any of these groups is a sense of the community, values and manners.

The widely distributed network has many advantages which are just beginning to be realized. The ability to access all of one's correspondence accurately and to search it appropriately requires the appropriate digital engines which are already available. These strong and accurate tools have evolved greatly over the last few years to the point where anyone who can "point and click" has easy access to all his correspondence.

An article on how e-mail works, "Internet electronic mail," was published in the March 1998 issue of Scientific American on page 108. You can find it at in the Past Issues section.

Richard E. Strain Jr., MD, is president, Managed Care Services Division of OMNA Medical Partners, Boca Raton, Fla.; president, CEO, South Florida Orthopaedic Care, Inc.; and COO, Rocket Science Consulting, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Editor's note: The Academy is compiling the e-mail addresses of all Academy members. Please send your e-mail address to member

More information

Orthopod list is an international academic mailing list for discussion, collaboration, sharing ideas and the dissemination of research in orthopaedics and trauma surgery.

The orthopod specialty lists include:

Another Internet-based orthopaedic network is Orthogate . The founders plan to offer information resources needed by orthopaedic surgeons, allied healthcare providers or patients available from a web browser. This includes electronic orthopaedic textbooks and journals. Orthogate provides links to other newsgroups and discussion groups.

WorldOrtho (, is produced by the department of orthopaedics, The Napean hospital, University of Sidney, Australia. It includes discussion capabilities, a "chat room" for real-time discussions and a comprehensive list of educational materials.

Computer Link welcomes suggestions about future topics for the column and questions about the use of computers in orthopaedic practice. Send your suggestions to the Bulletin at AAOS, 6300 N. River Rd., Rosemont, Ill. 60018.

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