By Dennis D. McDonald
An Associated Press story on Yahoo! News titled AMA wants doctors to swap idea online describes how the AMA has started an ad-free, subscriber based network for use by physicans in conjunction with Sermo, Inc. The network is used for sharing questions, answers, and medical opinions. Physicians can contribute anonymously. Financial investors can subscribe to the service to keep tabs on medical and pharmaceutical trends. Doctors can rate each other. Modest checks are mailed to highly ranked contributors.
This type of expertise sharing seems a natural extension of services for a professional association where there is a heavy practitioner concentration. People with problems or questions already consult a variety of sources to help solve problems using an online expertise sharing system seems like a logical extension of behaviors that have existed aver since professional began to organizae themselves into groups.
An intersting element here is the ability for some financial groups to subscribe in order to keep track of trends and medical issues.
This will make some privacy advocates uncomfortable, but I see nothing wrong with charging an access fee for communally developed expertise, as long as privacy concerns are addressed. The nightmare scenario would arise if an insurance company were to obtain access to the network in real-time and peer over the shoulder regarding the treatment of an individual patient that is being discussed online. That already takes place to some degree with respect to authorization of payments for treatment by insurance companies, along with the management of policies that require pre-approval of p[planned procedures. This type of network could contribute to that type of scenario being speeded up.
For now, though, access to Sermo is limited, but I foresee this type of information and expertise sharing spreading to other professional practice areas. It's a concrete example of a type of service that associations can provide their members that enhances the communication and sharing of information that already takes place. I also foresee eventually the availability of subscriber access to such networks in ways that will potentially compete with full-blown fee-paid visits to doctors, lawyers, and accountants. For some questions and problems, why not use your credit card and tap into a knowledgeable network that pools the brainpower of thousands or professionals around the world?
Of course, science fiction writers have been writing about such things for years, and professional networking organizations such as Linkedin already provide members with the ability to post questions in hopes they will be answered by other members. How long will it be before we can sit down and ask a fully realized 3D avatar dressed in a white coat sensitive questions about our aches and pains? Five years? Three years? One year?
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