Monday, July 02, 2007

Social networking for physicians

Social networking for physicians

By Erika S. Fishman, senior research analyst for Manhattan Research

by Contributed Editorial (MedAdNews)

According to Time magazine, "you" was the person of the year in 2006 due to the rapid emergence and growth of consumer-generated content online. In fact, sites such as,, and have become Internet mainstays, with the great majority of all consumers having visited at least one of these portals.

Physicians’ desire for this type of social-networking has not gone unnoticed. In fact, a study of 1,353 U.S. practicing physicians by Manhattan Research has found that 29% of physicians surveyed are using or are very interested in participating in an online community created specifically for physicians. Since October 2006 has served as a MySpace for physicians, where physicians sign-up to be able to share knowledge in different areas of the medical field. Of particular interest to pharmaceutical marketers is the ability to invest in this site to access discussion results on specific products.

For those wanting to get in on the physician-generated action, but hesitant to sign-up to join a full-fledged community online, there is always the popular blog or comment page on which such physicians can spill their minds. The Manhattan Research study also finds that almost one-third of all physicians surveyed contribute or post professional or clinical content online on a regular basis. Starting in November 2006, has given all health-care professionals, including medical students, the ability to submit clinical information. Although a wiki is intended to be a collaboration of thoughts, critics point out that within a specific field there is always the potential of biasing the results if site contributors are financially tied to a certain viewpoint.

Physicians regularly posting professional content online are not only more likely to recommend sites to patients than those physicians who do not regularly post such content, but they are also more likely to offer community sites as the destination — specifically a patient community site. Physicians regularly posting professional content online are also writing more prescriptions per week, highlighting the potential success for any eventual direct-to-physician marketing on social networking sites.

While 2007 will most likely not be the year in which the physician takes the throne as Time’s person of the year, it will surely be a test for physician-generated content. Social-networking sites provide yet another reason for physicians to shift their practice needs online.

Editor’s note: This is one of an occasional series of guest columns. Erika S. Fishman is a senior research analyst for Manhattan Research ( Manhattan Research is a health-care market-research and services company.


buzz this