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Doximity: Not Your Physician’s Facebook

Intouch Team

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Now that Sermo has been sold to World One (July 2012), there’s been heightened talk among pharma marketers about the true value of physician social networks. Do doctors use them for peer-to-peer interaction or only to generate a little extra income from market research? We reached out to Doximity, which has been generating tremendous buzz in the market, to find out.

Doximity is not your typical network. For starters, it’s designed for one type of user: doctors. It’s not a physicians’ Facebook and is even more professionally focused than LinkedIn. In actuality, Doximity is an online utility that facilitates and expedites collaboration between doctors at the point of care, when they need it most. Doximity focuses on alleviating the headaches physicians have when trying to connect with each other quickly — saving time and resources and possibly even preventing medical errors.

At its core, Doximity is a massive directory — a fairly traditional concept. But it’s no ordinary directory, says co-founder Dr. Nate Gross.

“This is the gold standard directory that has been built from multiple data sources through the Open Data Initiative and the AMA as well as multiple other partners,” Dr. Gross said.

Plus, it is available only to doctors. Why is this so important? Doctors are more likely to add additional — and essential — information, like cell phone numbers and personal emails, to their listing if it’s private. Led by CEO Jeff Tangney, the co-founder and former President/COO of Epocrates, the Doximity team expended quite a bit of time and resources on Doximity’s design to make sure doctors found it user-friendly and easy to engage. Another requirement was that it be designed with mobile usage in mind since smartphones and iPads are physician staples.

Trust is bred through transparent, verified data on Doximity. Unlike some sites designed for doctors, here there is no anonymity. Doctors know who they are talking to; indeed, they are reaching out to specific colleagues or even medical school classmates.

“Anonymity prevents physicians from delivering real clinical care,” said Dr. Gross. “We live within a fragmented healthcare system. The best thing you can do for patients is help their doctors communicate in a safe, authenticated environment.”

The best thing you can do for patients is help their doctors communicate in a safe, authenticated environment.”

Since its launch in 2010, the site has grown to include over 100,000 of U.S. physicians and is expanding daily, mainly by word-of-mouth. The median age is mid-40s, and users are fairly evenly distributed among specialty and geographic location. Doctors must opt-in and register to use all the site’s features, but even those who don’t can still derive some value. For example, a member physician can fax a non-member using Doximity’s secure, HIPAA-compliant network. There are additional features as well — like iRounds, for online collaboration around clinical cases (think: virtual curbside consults); and DocNews, for reading medical journals with a custom article lineup based on one’s clinical interests.

Doximity has received over $28 million in financing over time from well-established venture capital firms, including Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Partners and Morgenthaler Ventures. The business model is evolving and may include pharma participation in the future, but that is still up for discussion. Most important to the company’s leaders is that physicians can use Doximity securely and efficiently without banner advertisements. Doximity is not currently working with any pharmaceutical companies, but they are open to discussing higher value interactions, such as physician research collaboration. Dr. Gross shared two interesting data points with me. First, it takes an average of 17 years to incorporate new, evidence-based medical knowledge into routine clinical practice (according to research conducted by the Institute of Medicine). Second, medical errors are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S., largely because of miscommunication. Doximity is trying to solve both problems by providing doctors with a modern, safe and reliable way to communicate.

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