Sermo reaches 30 countries to connect physicians in an online community

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Site opens up a Facebook-like “Pages” to vendors and medical organizations

In the buzz about everything everywhere going online and going mobile, news has been relatively quiet among the media companies that have built online communities for physicians over recent years. But the quiet is deceiving: the communities continue to build resources and services, some of which are important to pharma marketers.

Sermo started up in 2005 and became a subsidiary of a market research firm, WorldOne, in 2012 (at some indeterminate point between then and now, Sermo became the brand of the entire organization). Most recently, Sermo announced the 30th country joining its network, mostly North and South America, parts of Europe, Israel, Australia and South Africa. The site now has 600,000 physicians, connecting in five languages. (Its overall network reaches 80 countries and 1.8 million HCPs, the company says.) Over the past six months, it has added an RealTime, a surveying and testing platform for generating rapid responses for market research and related topics (such as designing a clinical trial protocol), and Pages, an online storefront-like feature that allows for interaction with Sermo participants. Pages is free, and is geared toward vendors, medical organizations and pharma companies desiring to raise their profile in the user community. Sermo isn’t saying publicly how much revenue it’s deriving from pharma marketers, but does boast that between itself and the legacy WorldOne business, it has conducted over 700,000 market surveys, and has dispensed $16 million in honoraria to participating physicians in the past year.

Sermo’s leading competitor in the US is Doximity, founded in 2013 and now boasting over 500,000 registered (and verified) physician members. Doximity works more like a professional network, designed to enable physicians to refer cases to each other (including secure, HIPAA-compliant faxes), acquire continuing education credits and the like. Anonymous posting—permissible on Sermo—is not allowed on the site. The company has said that it is exploring collaborative projects with the pharma industry, such as for clinical trials recruitment, but isn’t promoting such services so far.

Other sites—QuantiaMD, WebMD, DocNet and more—are out there, but the main competition to the category might be coming from the vendors of electronic health-record (EHR) vendors such as Epic, which has connected many of the US’ hospital organizations for digital recordkeeping and communications.

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