The Los Angeles Free-Net, an interactive community information resource, was established in part to help community members become more effective consumers of health care services. By providing timely, expert answers to anonymously asked medical questions at no charge, we hope to decrease unnecessary physician-patient encounters, encourage effective preventive-health measures, and improve the overall results of health care in our community. Although it is too early to assess health care benefits from this system, the following observations may help guide the development of similar systems around the nation: (1) A small annual registration fee generates both moral and financial public support. (2) Demographic information from registered users can help direct attempts at enfranchising all members of the community. (3) Toll-free access, free public-instruction sessions, moderated forums, extensive volunteer help, and encryption security are encouraged, while Internet censorship is difficult and counterproductive. (4) Access to Internet resources is important, but the strength of a community system lies primarily in the sharing of expertise and resources among members of the community. (5) A critical mass of available physicians to answer questions must be matched with a critical level of question input for this type of interactive medical information resource to function in a time-sensitive fashion.