The idea that doctors can (or should) use online tools to connect with others and deal with the inevitable information overload of medical information isn’t new. It was the founding vision of Medscape, way back in 1995, and it has animated countless startup networks, forums and publications in the 15 years since Medscape went live.
Despite the overwhelming demand for medical information, no universal resource has emerged. Of the 100 most popular websites in the U.S., not a single one is focused on health or medicine. (The highest-ranked site? WebMD, at #194 in the U.S.) This vacuum hasn’t gone unnoticed, and there has been an endless cycle of new entrants into the online health market.
But when it comes to doctors, it’s not the new kids on the block that are likely to dominate health information in the years to come: it’s the old guard. This summer, three game-changing online ventures went live from three different medical societies.
- The 61-year-old American College of Cardiology launched a new site, with social networking baked in (adding to the blog, LinkedIn group, two Facebook pages and three Twitter feeds).
- The 56-year-old American Society of Clinical Oncology introduced a robust publication, The ASCO Post, relying heavily on online distribution.
- And, just this week, 60-year-old European Society of Cardiology supplemented its annual meeting with a multimedia Facebook experience that extended the meeting to the group’s thousands of followers.
At a time when traffic has flattened at many other sites, groups such as the ACC, ASCO and ESC are combining the old-school networking power of a membership organization with new-school tools to bring messages to members (and others) in a way that was impossible until fairly recently. With a built-in audience, huge amounts of institutional knowledge and resources and — now — the tools to bring all of those together, professional groups are establishing an even more formidable position as information providers.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for a newcomer in the connecting-doctors department, nor does it spell the end of other established players (Medscape has seen a nice bump in traffic lately) but it’s increasingly clear that major medical organizations are re-emerging as a major communications channel for doc-specific health care information.