Helen M. Torok, M.D., is medical director for the Dermatology & Surgery Center at Trillium Creek. A noted expert in medical and cosmetic dermatology, she also is a Dermatology Times Editorial Advisor.
As a physician, I am starved for time. Social networking sites allow me to get the medical information I need quickly and efficiently. I can chat with other colleagues on cases, as well as learn about new products and services coming down the pike.
Instead of picking up the phone to contact a colleague or sifting through journals to find the information I need, I can go online. This allows me to use my time more efficiently and still get the answers I need.
Because of these benefits, I believe that social networking is going to move even further ahead and become the medium that many professionals - including physicians - turn to in the future.
Most social network services are Web-based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, including e-mail and instant messaging.
Social networking Web sites are currently being used regularly by millions of people.
Popularized by teens seeking to share information with their friends via Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace, social networking is now blossoming in the business world, thanks to new social networks that enable professionals to rub virtual elbows with colleagues.
As physicians and providers discover the benefits of online collaboration and learn to guard against the risks, peer-to-peer communities will flourish.
According to a recent Medimix International survey, 34 percent of online physicians in developed markets report that they use a social networking site ( http://www.medimix.net/news/2009/07/07/survey-results-physicians-use-social-networking).
According to "Taking the Pulse v8.0," a study conducted by Manhattan Research to explore physicians and emerging information technologies, Sermo and Medscape Physician Connect are the two largest physician-only communities currently available.
Sermo allows physicians to aggregate observations from their daily practice and then challenge or corroborate each other's opinions, accelerating the emergence of trends and insights on medications, devices and treatments.
Medscape is a part of the WebMD Health Professional Network that includes http://theHeart.org/ and http://eMedicine.com/. Medscape provides specialists, primary care physicians and other healthcare professionals with the Web's most robust and integrated medical information and educational tools.
Exciting developments in physician social networking sites are under way that will move these sites beyond just social networking and add features to build a complete online community.
With the launch of MDsConnect.net/ this fall, physicians will have the opportunity to learn how to grow their practice through expert advice from business professionals in various industry sectors. This allows physicians to connect, learn and grow all in one site.