The impact of social media on health care has been nothing short of
game-changing. Researchers have used sites such as Twitter to track the spread
of disease so that medical providers can respond to epidemics more quickly.
Among potential patients, eighty percent of Internet users say they now go
online to find health information, and 18 percent report using the Web to
connect with others who share their health issues or concerns, according to a
2011 Pew Internet study.
For doctors, who’ve long relied on sifting through medical journals for new
information, networked communities such as Facebook and Twitter have opened up
whole new paths for receiving relevant news quickly. Web searchers and
databases have put targeted information at their fingertips. Indeed, a recent
Google survey found that 86 percent of physicians now use the internet to
research health topics.
Yet in large part that’s where the story’s ended. While patients are free to
discuss their symptoms and cases online, the Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 precludes doctors from using email, text
messaging and social networking platforms to communicate about patient care.
Violations are taken seriously. Last year, for example, a Rhode Island doctor
made headlines when he was fined and fired for posting about a patient on
Facebook, even though he included no identifying information.
Doximity was created to meet what we believe is one of the next major
challenges in health care: facilitating online communication among doctors. Our
service is often described as a kind of LinkedIn for physicians, and in the
year since we launched, we’ve quickly become the largest medical professional
network in the country. To create a framework of trust and expertise, we verify
each member’s identity. To ensure that messages are sent securely, we employ
dual passwords for each user so the message will be encrypted end-to-end. In
other words, what gives us deep value within our particular community is that
we’re a private, real-name and HIPAA-secure means of exchanging information.
This February, we officially launched iRounds, a forum similar to Facebook,
Twitter, and Google+ feeds, where users can expand their reach beyond just
exchanging messages and toward tapping larger communities to discuss patient
cases, new research, emerging medical technologies and more. Already, our
members have put iRounds to work, using it to talk about everything from
practice management or what new EHR platforms are best to some truly
jaw-dropping cases. Among them, for instance, a doctor treating a patient who
had accidentally swallowed a metal bristle from a barbecue grill was able to
connect with someone who had, believe it or not, seen a similar case.
It’s not difficult to imagine these kinds of real-time, long-distance
collaborative teams becoming the norm. We think there’s a tremendous value to
be gained by filtering cases and data through an interactive platform composed
exclusively of doctors, each of whom is able to attach unique clinical insights
to information as it travels. In this way, with each physician linked to a
broad network of experts, treatment stands to become more targeted, specific
and personalized than ever.