One of the growing phenomena related to the practice of medicine and the internet is the introduction of physician chat rooms in real time on the web. In new forums like Sermo, approximately 90.000 physicians can currently log on line and discuss clinical issues in real time and obtain broad based input and support and advice from other physicians with respect to clinical issues. This is a form of social networking for physicians. Among the potential benefits of the forum is the ability to compare notes and to alert others to sudden distortions in the health of local populations due to flu or other causes, and the sharing of what works and doesn’t work in clinical practice.
Also, participating clinical physicians are not required to identify themselves on line, although Sermo knows who they are. Physicians representing big Pharma companies such as Pfizer are required to identify themselves as such on line, there is the potential for other physicians to cloak their identities while actually in the thrall of Pharmaceutical companies. One of the hot issues in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry right now is the manufacturer support of “off label” use of FDA approved drugs and devices. The chat rooms have the potential to replace drug company detailers and salespersons in the presentation of particular drug options to physicians.
One of the other concerns is the connection of Sermo through its AlphaMD program to Bloomburg, a connection that provides access to the Sermo chat room to 280,000 financial analysts surveying potential investments in the pharmaceutical industry.
There are other physician chat rooms such as Ozmosis that proscribe anonymous communications requiring all participants to identify themselves. Ozmosis markets itself as a more trustworthy site because it is more transparent as to the source of its information. So it goes.