Farhad Sigari, MD, an otolaryngologist in California, has always found value in online interaction.
Explore this issue:February 2017
When Dr. Sigari, who is with the Del Rey Allergy and Sinus Institute in Marina Del Rey, Calif., first opened his practice, he spent time on a website answering patient questions about different issues in otolaryngology, thinking it would help him find new patients. It didn’t, but it helped him strengthen his communication skills. Fast-forward several years, and Dr. Sigari’s practice is filled with patients—and he has limited time to spend online.
But Dr. Sigari still visits networking websites, particularly those aimed at physicians, such as Doximity. There, he interacts with other physicians, reads insights about other physicians’ difficult clinical cases, and scans the site’s newsfeed for specific journal articles and abstracts tailored to otolaryngology.
Doing so helps him keep his eye on the pulse of his profession on his own limited free time. “I can see and follow the experience of others even if I am not posting the questions myself, and they can be quite useful,” he said. “It helps to get a sense of what other physicians are thinking.” Instead of gaining insights once or twice a year while attending professional conferences, ongoing online interaction on physician-centered networking websites helps give “a more accurate reading of what is going on with the profession and industry, and a more real-time response,” he said.
Social networks such as Doximity, QuantiaMD, and SERMO offer healthcare professional-centric networking and collaboration and position themselves as places where physicians, medical school students, nurses, and physician assistants can find their peers and colleagues. They can also conduct clinical business, find job postings, and sometimes even earn CME credit. It’s a different flavor from what’s possible on more generalized social media sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook.
I can see and follow the experience of others [on the networking site], even if I am not posting the questions myself, and they can be quite useful; it helps to get a sense of what other physicians are thinking. —Farhad Sigari, MD
What Physician Network Sites Offer
While each physician network has its own flavor, all stress the importance of professional involvement. “We are, in essence, the world’s largest doctor’s lounge,” said Peter Kirk, the CEO of SERMO, a site founded in 2005. “Our DNA, the core, is truly user-generated content, and the physician engagement is what makes SERMO what it is.” The site confirms that all of its users are physicians and up to 90% of them choose to post anonymously. Doing so lets users “speak in confidence, give their true opinions, and be more daring,” Kirk added.