Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Physicians Prefer Gated Social Media Communities

Research sponsored by Pfizer and published last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that over 70% of physicians surveyed (N=485) are either "current users" (52%) or "likely/very likely" users (19%) of "restricted online communities" (such as Sermo). In this case, "use" means sharing medical information and staying up to date professionally. The following chart is a remake of Figure 2 from that study (find it here).


Wikipedia is the next closest "social media" site used by these docs (186 oncologists and 299 primary care physicians) -- only 25% of surveyed physicians said they are current users of Wikipedia. As for YouTube, 23% of surveyed docs said they were current users.

This survey was conducted in March 2011.

According to Manhattan Research’s Taking the Pulse® v11.0 study (May 2011), only about a third of all “digital” physicians (24% of all physicians) are using gated physician peer communities like Sermo, Medscape, DrConnect, PhysicianConnect, Ozmosis, etc.

Some experts, such as Bruce Grant, SVP of Strategic Services at Digitas Health, in the past have cited other, conflicting data that suggests physicians interested in using online peer-to-peer social communities outnumber by 2 to 1 physicians who are actually using them (see "Physician Participation in Peer-to-Peer Social Media Sites"; use discount code P2Pfree).

52% or 24%, whatever! The number of physicians using gated social media communities for professional purposes far exceeds the number of physicians using "open" communities such as Twitter or Facebook. Only 7% of surveyed physicians say they use Twitter in order to share medical information and stay up to date and 36% of said they either were not aware of Twitter (3%) or said they would never use Twitter (33%) for such purposes (another 50% said they were unlikely or not sure if they would use it)!

Meanwhile, the use of Twitter by patients/consumers seems to be on the rise. Twitter reports that tweets about health are up 51 percent this year (see "Twitter Courts Healthcare – But Cautiously").

It doesn't seem likely that physicians and their patients will ever communicate using social media. They just don't seem like birds willing to flock together on social media.

1 comment:

  1. Great data points, John, but I'm not sure I agree with your last point. I would argue it's only a matter of time before patients and docs use social media to communicate. There are small hints of that future beginning to emerge.

    One is Mayo Clinic's patient social network, which now has more than 25,000 registered members. Though it is currently for patients to connect with one another, Mayo has indicated they want to enable patients to pose questions online and get answers from docs that others can see.

    Beyond that, I suspect it won't be long before we see social media bolted on to patient portals in ways that enable docs and patients to follow each other and securely message one another. As digital health tracking becomes more ubiquitous, one or more members of a patient's care team will get pinged if a patient's numbers are trending in the wrong direction. That will trigger new forms of doc/patient communication that will be both derived from and reinforced through social media channels.

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