Next Generation Internet’ is on the horizon

Increasing the public’s use of the federal Internet database MEDLINE means increasing the budget for the Next Generation Internet (NGI) project in 2001, according to Donald Lindberg, MD, National Library of Medicine (NLM) director.

In a recent statement to the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Lindberg said an increase in the NGI budget would, among other things, increase band- width for the MEDLINE, the library’s database. Advanced medical imaging requires more bandwidth than is currently available on the Internet. Additional bandwidth would allow prompt diagnosis based on transmission of complex images.

Another NGI improvement, Lindberg said, would be assuring protection of privacy among members of the public using MEDLINE. Other potential new applications for MEDLINE include home health care, continuing medical education, public education, and possibly even reduction of errors in medical practice.

In the past four years, public use of MEDLINE has increased from 7 million searches a year to 250 million per year. Although widely used by scientists and health care workers, about 34% of Medline searches are performed by members of the public seeking information about their health.

The NLM plans to support more than $45 million in NGI projects, including telemedicine projects, advanced medical imaging, and patient- controlled personal medical records systems, Lindberg says. For more details on this effort, see www.nlm.nih.gov/od/ngi2001testimony.html.