U.S. Doctors Are Heavy Users of Social Networks, Online Video

  |  January 27, 2009   |  Comments

Survey finds physicians very active on Sermo and other specialized social networking sites.

Some 60 percent of doctors in the United States use social networking sites for physicians, or are interested in joining them, and they write more prescriptions than medical colleagues who are not active in such sites. These are among the findings in a new report from Manhattan Research, a New York-based pharmaceutical and healthcare market research company.

According to "Taking the Pulse v8.0", which surveyed more than 1,800 doctors nationwide, physicians active in online communities tend to be primary care doctors, female and, perhaps not surprisingly, younger than average. And a statistic that should catch the attention of online video creators: 83 percent of physicians watch online videos, compared with 34 percent of all U.S. adults.

Sermo and Medscape Physician Connect are the two largest physician-only online communities, and the chief subjects of "Taking the Pulse." In addition to interactive discussions, both offer continuing education credits, job boards, and access to medical journals. While their traffic is a blip next to sites like Facebook and MySpace -- both Sermo and the Medscape site claim to have attracted more than 100,000 physicians since launch -- they share the uncertainty facing all social networking sites as they attempt to monetize their audiences.

But Mark Bard, president of Manhattan Research, says the physician sites have something that the broad sites lack: A highly defined, and highly influential user base. "The pharmaceutical industry still spends more money online on consumers than on doctors, which to us is strange," he says.

Michael Maher, senior partner and director of client services at Greater Than One, a New York City-based digital marketing agency for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries, believes that will change. He sees the social network sites as ways for companies to connect with doctors for clinical trials and the testing of new medical equipment and electronic prescribing software. Marketers, he says, need to ask themselves what they can do to stimulate the discussion, adding "every pharmaceutical company we work with is trying to figure out how to make this work."

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