The American Medical Association is working with a startup company that encourages doctors to swap ideas online, and charges investment firms to view postings that could serve as tip-offs to drug side effects and other market-moving medical trends.
The AMA today plans to announce a partnership with a company called Sermo, which seeks to use the Web to tap into the collective wisdom of the service's growing network of 15,000 U.S. doctors.
Some doctors are skeptical the 9-month-old service can advance medical safety, and a pharmaceutical industry group worries the service could spread as much rumor as fact.
But the AMA hopes its collaboration with Cambridge, Mass.-based Sermo will open a new line of communication, allowing members to quickly share everything from advice about treating an individual patient's unique symptoms to opinions on whether regulators should approve an experimental drug.
The two-year deal allows the Chicago-based AMA to survey its members on hot topics, just as Sermo's Wall Street subscribers solicit doctors' opinions to help guide trading decisions on drug company and medical device stocks.
"From AMA's perspective, this gives us access to the largest online physician community, and lets us connect our members with that," said Cecil Wilson, chairman of the AMA board.
Sermo says 15,000 physicians have signed up since its launch last September, dwarfing existing online physician forums that rely on advertising for support, unlike Sermo's subscriber-based, ad-free model. The privately held firm says it has raised $11.5 million in venture capital.