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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 location.

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.



International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Knowledge Center
Biomedical Informatics
Health Informatics
Healthcare Technologies
Hospital Information Systems
Computer Networks Topics
Client/Server Networks
Intranets and Extranets
Peer-to-Peer Networks
Thin Client Server Technology
Virtual Private Networks
Wireless Technology

Last Updated: 10 August 2006.

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