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Intranets and Extranets
An intranet is a private network that implements the
Internet communication protocols. Intranets are similar to the Internet
and provide the same information –email, newsgroups and web pages but on a
smaller scale. For security reasons they are password restricted, located
behind firewalls and their distribution are not restricted to any one physical
Access to an intranet is restricted to employees of the
organisation that owns it. The intranet might also connect its users to the
Internet and with the security in place, enable global access to parts or the
whole of the Intranet.
When an intranet becomes accessible to authorised outsiders it
is known as an extranet. Extranets have been employed in developing some
virtual private networks (VPNs).
Many healthcare organisations are turning to intranet/extranet
solutions to provide a secure source of information to trusted people within
and outside their organisation.
Some of the services available on the intranet would depend on
the level of access of the user and would be password protected as well.
Services such as a staff and email directory, hospital
policies, strategic and scheduling information (events, staff rotation and
presentations) could be made readily available to all members of the
organisation. This kind of information, though generic in nature, need not be
known by the public but could be of use to the personnel.
The evolution of communication standards such as
HL7 and DICOM (Digital Imaging Communication in Medicine), now make it
possible for authorized clinicians to exchange clinical information using these
secure private networks.
Sites for library services, continuing medical education and
knowledge management can be set up for staff members that are looking for
specific information, which can be tailored for the individual and the region
in which the healthcare organisation is located.
Extranet services could include clinical laboratories
exchanging information with HMOs, patients looking for hospital specific
information such as hospital map and directions, access to their clinical
records and computer aided learning modules. Other services could also include
communications between the healthcare organisation and trusted suppliers.
Its disadvantages include:
If the server goes down, it takes part or the whole network with it.
It is more expensive to install.
Needs to be maintained by staff with high IT skills.