Social media

SERMO social network is addictive, says Canadian MD

By Rosie Lombardi

SERMO is a social media network that caters exclusively to medical doctors, providing a safe forum for information-sharing, discussion and debate. Started up in 2005 in Boston, the network recently expanded into Canada, the UK, South Africa, Ireland and New Zealand. Dr. David Schindler, an ER physician based in Cornwall, Ont. started using SERMO in 2006 when he was working in the U.S. “It’s very addicting, much like Facebook, but it’s different because you can get a lot of useful information, and there’s an anonymity to it because you don’t know the people,” says Schindler.

SERMO’s members have swelled to almost 400,000 physicians with its recent expansion. “Because of the large number of physicians on Sermo, you’re guaranteed to get answers when you pose a question, and those answers will come from people who specialize in whatever area you’re asking about. You get useful responses that I don’t think you could find anywhere else online, or even in person – especially if you work in a smaller hospital like I do,” says Schindler.

There’s a shortage of some specialists at the Cornwall Community Hospital, so he says he often turns to SERMO to get advice. “For example, we have a shortage of ophthalmologists. So I can get 10 ophthalmologists to answer a question online, but I probably can't get an ophthalmologist on the phone at work as fast.”

However, the site isn’t just for strictly medical enquiries or content, he says. There are a wide range of topics SERMO members can choose from to exchange news and views, he says. “There are categories like finance, politics, humour and more, in addition to medical topics. You can pick multiple categories to post opinions and questions. There’s a ‘Follow this post’ feature that you can use to highlight a post that interests you, allowing you to follow discussion threads when new comments come in.”

Schindler says his primary interest is in medical topics, although he also engages in other social topics. “Typically, I’ll go through the list of topics or questions and I'll find a post. As an ER physician, I’m more interested in clinical cases. There are some posts that I’ll avoid, for example, genetic mutations, because I’m not a researcher. I’ll look for something that interests me and will read about it, and follow it if I’m really interested.”

Posts with enquiries can be tagged so multiple specialties are invited to respond. “I can ask a question about an ER topic but it may be an OB-GYN question too. By including OB as a subject as well as emergency medicine, I’ll get the opinions of both ER and OB physicians and often a debate will come out of it.”

Schindler says he enjoys SERMO’s blend of socializing and learning online. “It’s a relaxed way of learning as opposed to just sitting down and reading a book or article. Different people have different ways of learning and it works for me.”

Many industry observers point out Canadian doctors are behind the curve and don’t use social media as much as they should, but Schindler says this has more to do with the lack of sites that cater to their particular needs. “If Canadian physicians aren’t up on social media, it’s because I don’t think they’ve been presented with much of a variety of options with social media. When I go to conferences and mention SERMO, many of the physicians that I talk to say they would’ve been interested in signing up for SERMO if it had been available sooner in Canada.”

For more information, visit http://www.sermo.com/

Posted August 27
, 2015