MedCrunch: Dr. Ringrose could you please explain to our readers what Doctors.net.uk is.
Tim Ringrose: Doctors.net.uk is an online professional network, free for doctors to use. It has now over 196,000 UK doctor members, which sums up to the vast majority of UK physicians. One in four UK doctors will use it within a 24-hour period. They feel Doctors.net.uk is a secure place on the net where they can access credible information, discuss questions and cases with each other, and complete CME (Continuing Medical Education) modules. They also use it as a way to find out about new therapies and products; and that is where our revenue streams come in. We do research for pharmaceutical companies, device companies, healthcare providers, charities, governments and we can also deliver communication programs. For example, if a company has a new product, say for diabetes, and they want to target a particular group of doctors, we can specifically target just the doctors they want to reach with promotional information, but we make it clinically relevant, thus allowing us to get high engagement levels. What we find is that physicians prefer to look-up information through a credible, independent, online resource than the old ways of a [sales] representative knocking on the door or sitting in the waiting room, waiting for them to have a moment free to talk with them.
MedCrunch: What is the goal of Doctors.net.uk?
Tim Ringrose: Well, the goal of Doctors.net.uk is to provide better healthcare by providing more relevant and credible information for doctors to make the best decisions. The result of the many changes in healthcare over the last couple of decades is that physicians are no longer able to practice medicine with the knowledge they have learned in medical school. Doctors need to keep up to date with the changes occurring in each medical field. It is particularly tough for the General Practitioners since they have to keep up with everything, and things are changing in all different directions. Furthermore, patients are rightly wanting to make sure their doctor is completely up-to-speed; and Doctors.Net.UK [and other similar online resources] helps doctors not to be in an awkward situation where their patients could know more about their condition than the doctors does, which does happen. What is exciting about this [Health 2.0] conference, and in general, is that the doctors are realizing that they can no longer be paternalistic towards their patients, they have to be willing to be on an even level with their patients and co-create their health care.
MedCrunch: Do you think technology is pushing the democratization of medicine and allowing for participatory medicine to emerge?
Tim Ringrose: Participatory medicine is great! A small number of doctors have really understood what participatory medicine entails and actually practice it; they want to explore things with their patients and understand their patients’ attitudes to certain therapies; they want to give their patients access to information and they want to guide their patients in the right direction to get the best information. These doctors are still a minority, and my hope is that they will become a majority very soon. The more old-fashioned doctors and those who feel threatened by their patients asking them questions will hopefully see the benefits of being a little more open in their [medical] technique. There are doctors who argue that it takes more time and that it threatens their position, and that patients are not able to make the right decisions for themselves because they are not clever enough. But these are all ridiculous arguments.
MedCrunch: Are there any similar solutions [to Doctors.net.uk] in other countries that you are aware of?
Tim Ringrose: We have looked around the world to see where there are other instances of online physician communities or medical professional networks. What is interesting is that you would expect that the United States would be the place where online medical professional networks would be most vibrant, but it isn’t. In the U.S. you have Doximity and it is growing, but it is actually outside the U.S. where you have the really big [physician] communities. Networks in Health is our alliance of physician communities, which means we are teamed up with many physician communities like Coliquio in Germany, which has around 65,000 doctors within their network with high levels of engagement. We are also teamed up with some smaller groups in Belgium, Russia and Turkey. Moreover, we have engaged in partnerships with large groups in Canada, Australia and Latin American, the latter one having over 450,000 physicians. I believe that the challenge for physicians is how to properly manage time and information-searching so that they get just the right information and that they do not feel flooded by too much information. Many physicians worry that they could miss some key piece of information that could make a real difference on how they manage a patient. It is really about how you manage information. Social-media can really help, but at the same time some people worry that it could add to information overload. It is how you tackle information that is key and offering tools to physicians to manage information would be the solution.
Dr. Tim Ringrose is the CEO of Doctors.net.uk the leading independent network of medical professionals in Europe. Tim graduated from St Andrews University ,trained in nephrology and intensive care at Oxford before joining Doctors.net.uk in 2000. Tim has a strong interest in medical education and has authored many articles in the medical press and acts as spokesperson for Doctors.net.uk.