How Social Networks Connect Doctors Through Shared Expertise [Future Of Health]

How Social Networks Connect Doctors Through Shared Expertise [Future Of Health]

Physician-To-Physician Networks are helping doctors solve difficult cases and review effective treatments, adding to the collective knowledge in the healthcare industry.

  • 10 march 2014

Accessing the right information when and where you need it is a challenge in any profession. In the medical field, it could mean the difference between a positive patient outcome or a misdiagnosis. As medical expertise becomes increasingly specialized, keeping up with the latest studies, treatments and technologies, while continuing to effectively treat patients is a growing challenge. Fortunately, a host of platforms and collaboration tools are making this possible, helping to streamline communications between medical professionals and create pooled information portals for doctors to reference on demand.

In our Future of Health report, we’ve noticed that medical professionals and researchers are tapping into the expertise of their peers through secure platforms that enable them to seek and share advice. These trends towards Physician-To-Physician Networks helps doctors solve difficult cases and review effective treatments, adding to the collective knowledge in the healthcare industry, while improving the level of care they can offer to patients.


A picture can say a thousand words the saying goes. In the medical profession an image can add context to a diagnosis description or help deconstruct a complex medical scenario. Canadian-based Figure 1 is a photo-sharing platform that enables medical professionals to continue learning about medical conditions using reference images from their peers and other healthcare professionals. Developed by the healthcare-focused mobile development company Movable Science, users can add pointers and annotations that direct peers to specific areas of focus. Photos can be tagged with relevant terms that allow others to search for conditions or symptoms. Peers can comment on images, fostering discussion among members. Images can also be starred, enabling users to save useful images for later reference. In order to protect patients’ identities, the app uses facial recognition to block out faces; users can edit images to further remove identifying marks and protect their patients’ identity. The visualization tool helps with the capture and indexing of conditions, allowing physicians to reference a constantly growing body of information for their professional benefit.



Niche networks offer doctors a way to connect in a secure way to exchange information that will be relevant to their practice. Doximity is one example, offering a specialized social network for healthcare professionals, which allows doctors to tap into an online web of physicians to securely discuss patients’ treatment options. By engaging with the platform, primary care providers and healthcare teams have been able to easily get on the same page regarding patients that they are seeing and more effectively collaborate by sharing notes, records and other information. Similarly, healthcare professional can research common symptoms or look for specialists and experts that may have more experience with certain cases. The California-based service has become a new source of information and platform for over 100,000 specialists to exchange information, producing over 1,000 referrals and expert searches per day.


Digital tools offer a quick reference, but sometimes putting a face to advice is crucial to trusting a recommendation. Dr. Sanjeev Arora has created the ECHO Project at the University of New Mexico to create a decentralized practice model that guides rural clinicians in providing care to underserved patients with chronic issues. Leveraging his specialist knowledge in treating Hepatitis C, he spends two hours per day with a team of fellow specialists to co-manage patient cases that remote doctors, nurse practitioners and other healthcare providers are treating across the state. Each session consists of teleconference with 8-10 local healthcare providers that split the time sharing cases they are working on with specialists and their peers, as well as receiving educational workshops from the specialists. These trusted local clinicians are able to relay lengthy and otherwise difficult to access treatments to patients, often improving outcomes due to the lowered stress derived from the convenience. Starting in 2003 providers have gained a no-cost education, and have received over 57,000 credit hours of education as of September 2013.

As we think about these digital tools and how they are opening up new channels for collaboration, medical professionals are leveraging them to expand their day to day practice and build on their knowledge base. As these become more widely adopted within the medical community, we expect to see them expand into an invaluable resource in the way care is delivered.

With the help of our partner Boehringer Ingelheim, PSFK Labs has released the latest Future of Health Report, which highlights the four major themes and 13 emerging trends shaping the evolving global landscape of healthcare. To see more insights and thoughts on the Future of Health visit the PSFK page.

Contributed by Tim Ryan

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