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Message board 2.0

October 2008

Published in the October 2008 issue of Today’s Hospitalist

WHILE INTERNET MESSAGE BOARDS have been around for a while, a new service for physicians is revolutionizing the concept with an all-comers’ approach and a unique business model.

On the surface, the Web site known as Sermo, which is Latin for “conversation,” looks very much like the message boards that are part of medical society sites. But Adam Sharp, MD, Sermo’s chief medical officer, says there’s a big difference.

“You have physicians from every specialty weighing in on any given post,” Dr. Sharp explains. “That brings a much broader perspective than individuals coming together from within a medical society or a specific specialty.”

Another difference? Sermo members not only get the service free of charge, but they aren’t distracted by online advertising.

That’s because Sermo supports itself by allowing nonphysicians, who it calls “clients,” to view the site and engage with member physicians. These clients, whether they’re pharmaceutical industry types, industry analysts or government officials, all pay for the privilege of knowing what physicians are thinking and talking about.

“We allow clients to access and harness the insights of physicians,” explains Dr. Sharp. Clients can also create entries that are clearly labeled as “client posts” “posts that make up, Dr. Sharp notes, less than 1% of all Sermo entries.

The Sermo approach has been validated by the more then 80,000 physicians who have already joined. (More then 1,200 physicians sign on every week.) That type of popularity raises another challenge for the site and its users: how to navigate messages from such a fast-growing pool of physicians.

Sermo identifies the specialty of physicians posting messages. (The service began recognizing hospitalists about a year and a half ago.) If users want, they can read messages from only their specialty. Sermo also provides navigation tools that allow users to find only highly rated posts.

In addition, users can conduct key word searches using a Google-like search engine; participate in free CME; earn income through specialty-specific surveys; and utilize Sermo’s physician-only, recruiter-free job board, all free.

Visit Sermo on the Web.