A few years ago a study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University highlighted just how popular social networking was amongst medical professionals.
Even back then (2013), 1 in 4 doctors reported using social networking on a daily basis. Suffice to say, they weren’t using it to share cat memes or any of that, but to engage and collaborate with their peers.
The findings mimic those from other professions. Recently, for instance it emerged that professionals spend around 40% of their time online inpeer communities. Far from being a waste of time or the home of the banal, most interactions on these communities was found to be educational.
Such behavior has underpinned the rise of sites such as Doximity, who have claimed to have nearly 1/2 of all doctors in America active on their site in previous years.
All of which sounds like a saturated market, but that has not stopped SERMO from building up a sizeable following.
Social networking or crowdsourcing
The site has many of the same social networking style features as Doximity, but they aim to go much further than that.
SERMO was formed in 2012 with a basic social networking facility whereby doctors can talk to one another. All of which is rather standard fayre.
Where things begin to differ however is in a new feature the site is developing that has a distinctly crowdsourced flavor to it.
In a facility with similarities to Figure1, which offers patients an ability to gain a 2nd opinion online, members can easily upload photos of conditions that are stumping them and ask for assistance from their peers.
The site facilitates this exchange by anonymizing the process, thus absolving contributors of any legal liability that is usually associated with the provision of medical advise.
Interestingly, the vast majority of SERMO users are using the site anonymously, albeit after their identity has been verified by the site prior to them joining.
The practice is increasingly common, and clinicians are certainly willing to tap into their social network for help and support (and of course to offer it also).
A paper published last year highlighted the value in sharing knowledge online via social networks in healthcare, especially when key professionals get on board with the concept.
The creators of SERMO believe that such medical crowdsourcing will quickly become the de facto way of interacting, and with better quality results emerging from the practice, it’s sure to receive a favorable response from patients.
Whilst it’s an interesting way of securing second opinions and sharing knowledge, it does nonetheless still place the doctor at the center of the process, whereas the likes of Figure1 put the patient firmly in control of proceedings.
With platforms such as Figure1 together with the numerous new ventures offering telemedicine facilities, patients are increasingly empowered to do many of these things themselves rather than hope their doctor does so on their behalf.
It will certainly be fascinating to watch how this plays out over the next few years.