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Psyber Psychiatry, Commentary

E-mailing on the run

Web, wireless access help users stay connected.

Vol. 4, No. 1 / January 2005

Many physicians communicate with patients or colleagues via e-mail but lose this connectivity when they travel. If you find traditional home and office e-mail accounts are no longer enough, several e-mail access options can help you stay connected anytime.

How e-mail works

Typical home e-mail accounts-known as post office protocol (POP) accounts-use a client-server access method. The client-such as Outlook Express, Eudora, or Netscape Mail-checks the server for mail, which is then downloaded onto the home computer. Once downloaded, the message is gone from the server.

By contrast, an Internet message access protocol (IMAP) account offers more capabilities, such as allowing users to store e-mail on the server and organize mail into folders.December 2003). Also, some public locations such as New York’s Bryant Park offer free wireless Internet as a public service. 2 Personal digital assistants or notebook computers with wireless capability, such as the Tungsten TC or the Toshiba e800, are best suited to this type of access.

Dial-up Internet service is possible over your cell phone. Most mobile phone carriers charge extra for data transmission, and you will need a specific cable to connect your phone to your computer. Bluetooth wireless technology can eliminate the need for cables but beware: Data transfer is much slower with Bluetooth than with other methods.

Third-generation networks (3G)-higher-speed protocols that allow faster data transmission for multimedia-have been touted as the next best service from mobile phone providers. Wireless devices such as the Palm Treo or the Research in Motion BlackBerry are specifically designed for this type of access. Monthly data service costs approximately $30 for unlimited downloads or less when bundled with a voice plan. Access is limited to the cellular coverage area, however.

Wireless access protocol, an alternative to 3G, lets you access e-mail via your mobile phone. This service, available from mobile service providers for an additional monthly fee (about $10), lets you read mail on the phone screen, but there are several drawbacks:

  • Some people may find the text too small to read.
  • Text entry via the telephone keypad can be difficult. You either tap a key multiple times to select letters or use word prediction based on letters entered.
  • Not all phones available for each carrier can perform this function.

Wireless access protocol is well suited to reading e-mails. To compose an e-mail, however, you need to choose letters by clicking on numbers, which can be very difficult.


1. POP3. Available at:,289893,sid9_gci212805,00.html. Accessed Nov. 3, 2004.

2. Bryant Park: The Bryant Park Wireless Network. Available at: Accessed Nov. 3, 2004.

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