A social media platform docs can trust
Social media present a challenge for physicians.
Doctors violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act if they post a patient’s condition on their private Facebook account. They violate the ethics of physician-patient relationships if they connect with patients on social media platforms like Twitter.
“Doctors have been wary of social media for a very long time,” said Nate Gross, who co-founded Doximity, a professional network that allows physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants to find each other and communicate without violating privacy laws.
Launched in 2011, Doximity is an online directory of providers that now claims over a half million members. The listings include the name, resume, education and workplace of provider members.
A primary-care physician, for instance, can use Doximity to find a specialist for a patient. She can send and receive patient medical information through the platform. It also provides latest medical news relevant to her specialty.
To connect on Doximity, providers must first reach out to potential “colleagues” on the platform. Only after the invitation is accepted do providers exchange personal contact information.
Doximity removes the hurdles providers face when they try to reach one another regarding the care of their patients, Gross said. “Doctors are extremely busy,” he said. “Everything we do needs to help a doctor be a doctor, and help them care for patients over the course of their day. It should be saving them time, reducing errors, and bringing them the right patients.”
Because it’s free to join Doximity, Gross said its recruiting and referral services drive revenue, which he declined to disclose. Doximity works with 300 hospitals and healthcare organizations to help publicize new employment opportunities to interested providers. This is done in the form of advertisements on a user’s feed or unique messaging based on what a user is searching and who they are connected to. About 87% of Doximity users say they are open to new career opportunities.
Helping hospitals grow their referral networks is also a profitable service for Doximity. More than 30 hospitals including Ochsner Health System and Johns Hopkins Medicine are Doximity clients. The company helps specialists improve their presence on Doximity so they are referred to more often.
Although Doximity has a large user platform, it faces competition from other companies with the same idea. For example, Sermo, a social network site exclusively for physicians, has more than 550,000 members on its social media platform.
Doximity recently expanded into patient outreach by creating a smartphone app that allows physicians to call patients without revealing their phone number. It allows them to use their personal cellphone without fear of getting inundated with patient calls.
Gross said the app is helpful because a physician may not be the best or easiest person to call back for follow-up. This ensures patients are connecting to the right person quickly, he said.
Users of the app, which was launched last October, are already making 7,000 calls per day. The majority of the calls are made by physicians and 13% of calls come from nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
The Doximity staff of about 180 employees vets all applications to join the network. About half the staff is program developers.
Doximity has received $81 million from venture funds including Emergence Capital Partners, InterWest Healthcare Partners, Canvas Fund and DFJ.
The Society of Hospital Medicine, which represents more than 15,000 hospitalists, partnered with Doximity in June 2015 after leaders became intrigued by its large network, said Ethan Gray, vice president of membership at the society.
About 68% of Society of Hospital Medicine members are on Doximity. It allows them to find other doctors for referrals and share their patients’ medical information.
Hospitalists frequently work with other specialists and clinicians to organize transition of care plans for their patients. “One of the things that hospitalists are trying to reduce is readmissions back into the hospital, so continuity of care is really important,” Gray said.
The partnership also enables the Society of Hospital Medicine to contribute content from its publications to a Doximity newsfeed called DocNews Channel. Doximity offers users articles and content related to their specific specialty and interests.
“We are here to help doctors be more productive and successful,” Gross said. “Social media is a means, not an end.”