The American Medical Association is singing the praises of Physicians' Online to state and local medical societies, visitors to its Internet home page and anywhere else it can get the word out.
The physicians-only commercial service is being customized to transmit messages from the congressional front to the troops back home for maximum response to legislative developments.
Like everyone else, physicians are gravitating toward Internet service providers and other sources of computer access to information they can use in their practices. The AMA is trying to lure as many of them as possible to Physicians' Online.
That's the key to routinely getting thousands of physician faces in front of computer screens that will carry up-to-the-minute alerts and calls for action on impending legislative or regulatory proposals under a recent agreement between the AMA and Physicians' Online (Jan. 13, p. 4).
A sophisticated messaging technology allows the service to reserve the bottom eighth of its screen display for special alerts and for appeals to call up certain World Wide Web sites, said Steven Zatz, M.D., chairman and chief executive officer of the Tarrytown, N.Y.-based information service.
The AMA now gets the word to its 300,000 members through printed communications or "blast fax" technology, in which an alert is automatically dialed and transmitted to a list of recipients, said Richard Corlin, M.D., speaker of the policymaking AMA House of Delegates.
But the messaging capability of Physicians' Online could bring the advocacy concerns of AMA lobbyists to their members in just seconds, allowing the association to influence policymaking in Washington through immediate, intense pressure on key lawmakers, Corlin said.
On-screen alerts could direct physicians to the AMA Web site for a briefing and include phone numbers and e-mail addresses of lawmakers.
The same space used for alerts also is employed for messages from Physicians' Online sponsors and other paid advertising, allowing the service to be offered free to doctors. Of the nation's 600,000 physicians, about 140,000 had requested the service prior to the AMA's interest in it. Of those, an estimated half are AMA members, Zatz said.
Even when signed up, physicians aren't a guaranteed audience. Zatz said about 50,000 are regular users. The AMA campaign includes steps to publicize benefits of the service to its members, Corlin said.
Among other conveyances, the AMA is posting information on an electronic bulletin board reaching a federation of state and local medical societies, the grass roots of the national association's delegate structure, a spokesman said.
The AMA also will parlay its high-profile on-line connection with doctors into an opportunity to reach nonmembers.
But Corlin said the visibility and evidence of the AMA in action "may stimulate membership," an opening the AMA plans to reinforce by using the messaging space for promotion and advertising.