Health professionals ‘link in’

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Information today is only a mouse-click away. With every passing second, tens of thousands of people tweet, post, and vote about content on social networks. Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit represent three of the largest public social networks of our data-sharing age. From breaking news posts to nutritional tips to recounting vacations, information quickly spreads between online users in real time. And within the past few years, a certain group of individuals has realized the potential of social data sharing: health professionals.


Social networks in health care may appear to be a novel idea, but several of these communities have been around since 2009. Founded by health professionals, these networks cater to the needs of their various medical users. 


Doximity, a network specifically for physicians, is a leading example of what these networks can achieve. Combining the interactivity of Facebook with the convenience of office tools such as faxing and e-mail, Doximity serves as a platform on the go. It contains numerous useful features for doctors to share difficult patient case questions, search for local referrals, or spread useful medical knowledge throughout the community. Real-time physician chats provide instantaneous updates and availability for consulting about new treatments, technology, and more. 


According to the site, more than 50% of U.S. physicians are part of the network, and medical students are encouraged to sign up to begin connecting. With strict HIPAA compliance measures, messages sent through the network are secure to ensure privacy. In addition, physicians may choose to add either a public or private profile and determine the amount of information to share. 


Community choice


Doximity may currently be the most developed social network for health professionals, but it doesn’t end there. Other networks, such as Sermo, link physicians from around the globe. Similar to Doximity, Sermo serves as a global information exchange where medical knowledge is shared to further develop the profession. Skipta, a collection of specialty medical communities founded by a PharmD, provides a hub of information about various disease states. Recently, Skipta has partnered with a leading market research group, InCrowd, to use both its collected information and member expertise in supporting medical research. 


Of note, each of these communities verifies credentials of anyone who joins, ensuring integrity of their memberships. 


Building forward


Pharmacists also have access to social networks such as Pharmacist Society, the first founded community of Skipta. Both licensed and student pharmacists are encouraged to join the community and use its features, which range from consultation chats to news updates to NAPLEX knowledge games. While not as popular as Doximity or Sermo, Pharmacist Society has the potential to grow into a full-fledged online community. As the pharmacist’s role expands, social networks may be highly useful to maximize pharmacist resources. These networks present a virtual forum where knowledge and wisdom can be passed on and shared outside of the traditional electronic mailing list. 


Nonetheless, a network inviting expertise of various health professionals may be the next development. This interprofessional network would allow for a rich exchange of health care communication for even better ideas, more knowledge, and ultimately, better patient care. Until true information exchange and interoperability become the norm, social networking may provide an avenue for such an exchange using a user-friendly, real-time platform.


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