Over the next decade, the Internet and related technologies will revolutionize the administrative and clinical practices of ambulatory care, enhancing the ability of physicians to provide quality care, enabling "virtual care teams" to help patients deal effectively with acute episodes and chronic conditions, and reducing the cost of care. Like any major paradigm shift, this change will not happen overnight. Nor will it be without cost. The explosion of venture capital and meteoric rise of the Nasdaq in 1999 reflected the promise of the Internet to revolutionize many aspects of American business. The Nasdaq's equally rapid descent in 2000 reflected a growing realization that this change will not be free--that "creative destruction," to use Schumpeter's term, will inevitably require significant investment and produce substantial losses. This article takes a longer term view than the ups and downs in the stock market. We believe the forces unleashed by the Internet are inexorable and that 10 years from now we will look back at the millennium's first decade as a period when the practice of ambulatory medicine was transformed by communication technology.
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