Networking, collaboration, and partnership with others is a major part of a lot of professionals’ daily life in nearly all industries today. Doctors and their work are particularly influenced by professional relationships, and an entire movement exists to facilitate new interactions between physicians. To get a better idea of what’s going on in this field, we got the scoop on online physician communities in a Q&A with Software Advice‘s Melissa McCormack, who researches and writes about the latest medical software and technology for doctors.
Shiv Gaglani, Medgadget: What’s the primary draw of online physician communities for doctors?
Melissa McCormack: One big attraction of online physician communities is that they lower the barrier to establishing relationships – you don’t have to wait to be introduced to someone, or go search manually for someone’s credentials and contact information. With a site like QuantiaMD, doctors will organically encounter other doctors who are on the site, and they can also seek out doctors using quick searches by specialty, interests, etc. So the networking value is huge.
The other main draw is the information these communities share. Other doctors and medical experts post discussions, articles, and presentations based on their expertise. In the case of QuantiaMD, you even have organizations like the CDC sharing updates through the platform. Doctors can choose what types of information they’re interested in, so they’ll have content suggestions based on their actual interests. Then they can read or respond to that information at their own convenience.
Medgadget: Are physicians more interested in the learning component, or the connections they make with other doctors?
Melissa McCormack: Both, actually. As is often the case with technology, the creator may have one use in mind and the users may figure out their own new uses. Some online communities were perhaps created just to share content, or just to enable connections (like a LinkedIn for doctors). But what we see is doctors using the connections they form to learn from each other, essentially creating their own hybrid use for these communities. They’re seeking out connections to other doctors who can address a specific medical question or help them stay current in a specific area.
Medgadget: What role does gamification play in online communities like QuantiaMD?
Melissa McCormack: Gamification is a proven way to improve engagement and retention. Sites like QuantiaMD let doctors participate in “challenges” and puzzles – for example, trying to solve hypothetical medical cases based on pictures. This is fun and intellectually stimulating for doctors. It also helps them stay current on sometimes-niche medical topics. And the gamification means they’re more likely to retain the knowledge they use or learn.
Medgadget: Do online communities have any real impact on the actual, real-world practice of medicine?
Melissa McCormack: As a matter of fact, they do. Communities streamline the touch points doctors have with other doctors and sources of information. For example, QuantiaMD lets doctors connect with their drug reps online, so they can avoid the office drop-ins. Doctors can watch expert presentations and actually engage with the presenter – which is more convenient for the doctor, and also lets them take away more valuable information than, say, a conference presentation where they may or may not get to ask a question. This saves doctors time and also increases the efficiency of finding information that can help with their actual medical cases.
Medgadget: Can online physician communities keep patients healthier?
Melissa McCormack: Absolutely. The most direct impact these communities have on patient care is that they essentially enable digital consultations. QuantiaMD lets physicians engage in digital curbsides; the HealthTap community calls them curbside consults. Basically, this is doctors sourcing second opinions from other doctors in the network for actual medical cases. They can search by experience or credentials to find the right doctor(s) to consult with via secure online messaging. It’s a faster, more efficient, less expensive way for doctors to validate treatment decisions, or brainstorm new treatment pathways. And patients are the obvious beneficiaries of that process.