FIME is a good occasion to talk about how American physicians communicate with one another. Over half a million U.S. healthcare professionals are members of the social network Doximity. Launched in March of 2011, it became the most popular network for physicians in the United States in just five years. Its co-founder, Dr. Nate Gross, explained to us how it works and why it is so attractive.
ME e-mag: Is Doximity like a regular social network?
Dr. Nate Gross: It’s really different from the type of social networks that many people might use at the end of the day, just to relax and be social—Doximity is used during the workday. It is a workflow tool that is built on a state-of-the-art global and social network. Today, we are used by over 60 percent of all doctors in the United States. The last number [of users] that we announced in August 2015 is more than half a million. We have a three-step verification process, we verify for example their medical ID or their license to make sure that it’s only the doctors that are getting into the network. We don’t charge them for Doximity.
ME e-mag: Was there a need to create such a social network for physicians?
Dr. Nate Gross: Yes, definitely. Physicians have a need to communicate with one another. About two-thirds of the time when a patient comes to visit a specialist, the specialist doesn’t even receive the reason why the physician sent the patient to him. That is both expensive—tests may need to be repeated or you may need several visits—and dangerous.
Members can stay up to date with medicine literature. We have a system that is almost an artificial intelligence.
The joint commission in the U.S. has estimated that if medical error was considered a cause of death it would be the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. The BMJ earlier this year pulled out a report that estimates that it might actually be the third leading cause of death in America. The number itself—whether it’s the third or the fifth—is awful and quite preventable.
There’s a lot of different types of medical errors, but there’s one thing that medical errors have in common: It’s that somewhere along the line there was miscommunication. Either an important piece of communication didn’t get carried across or the wrong information got carried across. If the physicians could just talk to each other a little more easily, a little more frequently and of course securely we would be able to reduce medical errors. So that’s what Doximity does.
ME e-mag: What are the other applications of Doximity?
Dr. Nate Gross: It allows doctors using the website to go and look up any other doctor in the United State by name, or by criteria (language, specialty, city, insurance company they work with) in order to send themselves new patients, talk about a patient they share or maybe team up on a new research project. They can add connections on Doximity like you can do on LinkedIn, for example. About 40 percent of the time when they add up a connection, they choose to share extra private information like their cell phone. So they can be reachable in case of emergency or if a doctor wants to send them new patients.
Doximity can also automatically add a member’s publication or extra book chapters that they may have written to their resume. We also give our members hyper secured messaging. They can have their own toll free pass numbers that allows them to send and to receive faxes on their smartphone. That way if they’re at home or at a restaurant they can look at the faxes on their phone, sign it with their finger and fax it back. This allows them to not have to be stuck in a very fragmented healthcare system.
ME e-mag: It is also a tool for information, correct?
Dr. Nate Gross: Yes. With Doximity, members can stay up to date with medicine literature. Because we have every doctor’s resume, the type of diseases that they treat or the type of procedures that they do, we help them find the most important and interesting medical news and research. You can imagine the amount of medical literature out there, it’s growing and it’s very hard to stay on top of it all, especially because the doctors are busy.
So we have a system that is almost an artificial intelligence that reads every single medical research article every single day, picks it out what it is about, and then delivers that article in the news feeds to the doctors that are most likely interested in this piece of news. It’s very complicated to build. Over 10% of the company here are data scientists.
ME e-mag: If it is free, what is your business model?
Dr. Nate Gross: We have had investors—we raised a little over $80 million in venture capital over the past five years. But we also have a very healthy business model. The most important thing is that we help doctors with their career, that’s why we got the nickname “the LinkedIn for doctors.” So we are like a matchmaker. For example, for hospitals looking to hire a doctor they can precisely tell Doximity what they’re looking for and we provide them with a very precise match. That ends up being very much a win-win for everybody.