I’ve been fascinated with the rise of physician-only online communities for some time. The rise of the “digital physician” has significant implications for physician marketing and physician relations. It is a trend worth following. Today, approximately 1/3 of all physicians in the U.S. belong to a physician-only online social network.
One of the leading physician social networks is Sermo. Earlier this week Sermo’s PR team contacted me to share their latest news – the development of four new Social Hubs joining the current six specialties for Multiple Sclerosis, Oncology, Diabetes, Cardiology, Obesity, and Infectious Diseases. Each Social Hub is led by a group of more than 40 SERMO users that generate discussion topics and create authoring polls for members. They provide users with a platform for learning and a forum for professional networking and development. (SERMO is a physicians-only social network with over 270,000 U.S. physician members. It competes with the likes of Doximity and WebMD’s Medscape.)
The new Social Hubs cover the topics of Dermatology, Pain Medicine, Depression, and Bipolar Disorder. The Social Hubs provide member physicians with a multi-channel platform, enabling them to broaden their knowledge about some of the most innovative medical specialties and conduct in-depth peer discussions. Members within the Social Hubs can create disease or specialty-focused polls, post related video content, view related Twitter discussions, and learn about the latest industry conferences.
According to Sermo, its Social Hubs are the only forum for peer-to-peer collaboration among physicians which combines social content from multiple online sources with live crowd-sourced patient cases, guest contributors, and breaking news. Sermo compares its social hubs to virtual medical conferences – allowing physicians to interact with peers, learn and review their latest research and news, and discuss patient cases and clinical content in an engaging arena focused on specific health topics.
The strategy of launching these disease-specific or condition-specific social hubs makes a lot of sense. These online communities for physicians, much like those for patients, are most effective when they are focused on niche areas of interest. In the past I’ve written about the power of “communities of shared interest.” It looks like Sermo is finding that it can deliver more value to its community members by providing niche communities. I’m not surprised!