Clinical decision support vendors are among the front-runners in the move to mobility. The latest to jump is Medscape, which rolled out its Medscape Consult digital platform during this week's mHealth Summit.
The New York-based company is touting mobile access to its Medscape Drugs & Diseases reference database for physicians needing point-of-care support. The tool allows clinicians to search for information, chat with peers and ask questions in a moderated environment.
[See also: The power of peer-to-peer communication]
Ben Greenberg, vice president of project management and user experience for WebMD, Medscape's parent company, sees Medscape Consult as a "virtual curbside consult" for clinicians.
"(It's) a powerful mobile solution for physicians that provides concise and actionable clinical reference at the point of care," he told mHealth News. Medscape Consult allows physicians to ask and answer clinical questions, and share and discuss clinical challenges."
"Physicians have been telling us they need something more than just a physician community or social media site," he added. Medscape Consult … provides a moderated environment with editorial oversite that will further the breadth and depth of the clinical information and discussion."
Healthcare providers have long looked at the smartphone and tablet as mobile reference tools, but most resources have been limited to scaled-down versions of websites or PDFs of books. Alongside that evolving platform is the ever-tricky social media element – online chatrooms and messaging tools that offer the benefits of crowdsourcing and instant communications, but could do more harm than good if they're not secure or properly vetted.
Greenberg said Medscape spent years developing its mobile platform "because it's tremendously challenging to get it right." He notes that only physicians are able to access Consult at present, and those joining the moderated platform are under strict rules to refrain from posting any personally identifiable information.
"Many doctors like options for getting additional information and then are able to discern which information is helpful," he said. "Social media has been useful in connecting physicians with each other and helping them keep up with the latest medical news. With Medscape Consult, we're adding layers to increase clinical utility by connecting Consult to our reference database and including expert authors and reviewers for selected content. We plan to continue to build useful features into Consult to help bridge the gap between social media and clinical utility."
Medscape is one of clinical resource providers taking a closer look at the online space. Others include SERMO, Doximity and Quantia. And where some tout an online platform as a gateway to immediate clinical decision support, others are veering away from the chatroom concept and focusing on deeper iconversations.
"The nature of interaction and engagement with physicians has changed," says Dan Malloy, executive vice president of Quantia, part of the Physicians Interactive portfolio. He says the company's QuantiaMD online community "incentivizes participants to start opening more meaningful dialogue."
In fact, Malloy doesn't see his platform as a clinical decision support tool. It's more of an educational resource for clinicians, he said, encouraging them to have conversations about the business of medicine. Roughly 40 percent of the content is case-based, he said.
And it's certainly not meant to be a Facebook for doctors, he added.
"Physicians are opinionated people, and they are professionals, and they want a place to talk and learn and work things out," Malloy said. "This is not supposed to be a whining chatroom – that's not what the community is about. … It's an opportunity for them to engage in conversations about the industry."