6 physician social networks at a glance: Sermo

Site: Sermo

Created: 2005

CEO: Tim Davenport

Number of members: 130,000+

Target audience: All U.S. physicians

About the network: Sermo likely is the most controversial of all of the networks we've reviewed. Some critics are adamant that because the site allows its members to remain anonymous, negativity and animosity persist among physicians with differing opinions. Others feel that the site's practice of mining conversations for business and competitive intel impedes their privacy even though the practice is mentioned in the site's terms of use page. One thing that cannot be disputed, however, is Sermo's ability to remain a relevant force in social networking for physicians, as its 127,000-plus total membership far outweighs any of its competitors. 

"Sermo was the first and remains the largest and most vibrant online space for collegial interaction between physicians," says Adam Sharp, chief medical officer and co-founder of the site. "We have a viable and sustainable business model that supports further development of new features that provide value to our members and continue to grow the physician community/network." 

Despite the network's success, social media expert Bryan Vartabedian, MD, thinks that Sermo can do more to bolster its reputation. 

"The physician world is desperate for leadership and support surrounding their entre into social media," Vartabedian wrote in May on his 33 Charts blog. "From our struggle to define digital professionalism to the training of our next generation of doctors, there's a rare opportunity to create an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the medical community. Everything done without Sermo's name and support is a lost opportunity."

Sermo just launched a new mobile application--Sermo Mobile--that allows physicians using the network to collaborate with each other using an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

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