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The value of independent online networks

Value, privacy and credibility are key issues

Data from Manhattan Research and Google shows the average US doctor spends 22 hours a week on the internet and makes about six online searches a day, mostly for professional purposes. A similar reliance on the internet is evident across Europe, including the UK where statistics show that GPs are more likely to go online to find information about a new product than ask a colleague. But what digital resources are doctors relying on and why? 

Statistics show that in the past few years, more than 3m doctors worldwide have turned to independent professional online networks with the highest number of users in the UK and Germany. This growth has been fuelled by two key issues – the need for credible, independent information and doctors' desire to network with like-minded colleagues in a secure environment that cannot be accessed by anyone else. 

Statistics show that 99% of doctors log on to independent professional networks to communicate with colleagues, 66% use them to keep up-to-date with information, 44% for online CME and 35% to ask a clinical question. In fact, these networks have become so essential to a doctor's working day that they are rated second only to medical journals in terms of the levels of trust that doctors place in them. 

While websites and KOL or doctor networks that have been set up or sponsored by pharma provide some value, evidence suggests that independent credibility and lack of impartiality are still a major stumbling block for many doctors, especially hospital specialists. For example, data from Doctors.net.uk shows that only three per cent of doctors think online pharma resources are credible and 42% never visit their websites.

Peer to peer privacy is also an issue for doctors using pharma networks. Evidence shows that they are not willing to discuss sensitive issues in an online environment that is owned or sponsored by pharma. They want to network in the safe knowledge that the opinions and information they share with colleagues will not be passed on to third parties, and that they are not networking with unknown or unauthenticated individuals. Independent physician networks that authenticate their members provide this security and allow doctors to dictate the terms on which they engage with pharma. 

The impartiality and privacy that independent online networks offer, will continue to fuel their rapid global growth and reinforce their position as the resource that doctors are most likely to turn to for information and advice about their practice. And evidence shows that pharma is becoming increasingly aware of the significant opportunity they present to engage and build trust. For example, the poll conducted after the recent PMLiVE webinar on the 'rise of online physician communities across Europe', showed that 80% of the 300 attendees, believe such networks have an important role to play in the sales and marketing mix.

For more information on Doctors.net.uk, please call Simon Grime on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email Simon.Grime@mess.doctors.org.uk. You can also follow Doctors.net.uk on twitter: doctors_net_uk

6th November 2012

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