The Private Facebook for doctors: how Doximity hopes to change physician social networking and communication

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[Editors note: Tomorrow, we will present an exclusive interview with Doximity CEO Jeff Tangney]

>Doximity is an app that launched in the App store just over a week ago and has the potential to significantly change the way physicians use their smart phones.

The main focus of the app is physician communication and for this, it incorporates an innovative, secure SMS-like text service. But, its real power lies in its deep incorporation of multiple databases of physician and related information. In particular, the makers of the app carefully integrated data from the physician NPI and Medicare databases as well as lists of medical schools, hospitals, imaging centers and pharmacies. What they have produced is a surprisingly refined version 1 product that can quickly answer the myriad of small, practice-related questions that pop-up all day long during a busy schedule.

The depth of integration is evident early on during the registration process. Simply by entering your name and state, your profile is automatically populated with your medical school, residency and fellowship. In fact, the website immediately lists some of your medical school classmates’ specialties and cities, reminding you of old friends and quickly evoking a sense of physician community – similar to the Facebook experience.

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From there, one can add “colleagues” to your list simply by selecting from among nearby physicians in your specialty or from your training program. The application also prompts you to enhance your profile with your practice name, group, clinical interests. It even gives you the option to add your publications directly from PubMed. Any of these profile items would show up in a search on the network, so that anybody nearby or even far away looking for a physician with a specific clinical interest can immediately find you. Use of the app is restricted to physicians and verified health care providers.

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One of the central features of the app is secure text messaging among physicians. This feature is only available among members of Doximity. In contrast to standard SMS, messages are sent encrypted and archived, thus HIPAA compliant. Importantly, a return receipt is generated informing the sender what time the recipient read the message. As most practicing physicians are painfully aware, the current paradigm stubbornly remains the fax machine and pink message slips. For colleagues who communicate frequently, such as a specialist with a primary care physician or a teams of residents, this feature alone is a remarkable advance.

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Other features include the ability to locate nearby pharmacies, imaging centers, hospitals and labs. Any of these can be added to your speed dial list. For physicians with whom you communicate frequently, you can also supplement their profile with their cell phone or back line numbers. Even easier is to include these data in your own “private” profile and then opt to share these with other physicians – again – similar to Facebook.

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If the above list of features sounds like the app and its back-end infrastructure were designed by a team with intimate knowledge of physicians’ needs, it is probably not a coincidence. Doximity was founded by Jeff Tangney, co-founder of Epocrates who was its president and COO until leaving in late 2009. The team includes physicians and developers and is advised by other Epocrates co-founders.

Of course, there are a few small glitches in this first version of the app. Despite being iOS 4.0 compatible, it does not always preserve screen state when fast switching apps. Registering for my Doximity account using the iPhone required me to enter information three times before I gave up and used the online portal via my computer. Also, it does allow the ability to add facilities to the speed dial call list if the search function is used.

On the whole, however, Doximity is an impressive tool that shows the advantages of highly focused design and development. It is clear they have used some existing paradigms of social networking – but have also put in privacy safeguards that are essential for health care professionals.

Thus far Doximity seems to be much of its way toward achieving its goal of facilitating physician communication and practice-related information retrieval. Given the pedigree of its creators and lack of financial constraints, it should have a bright future.

For a quick run-through of Doximity features, check out the brief video below.

Tomorrow, we will present an exclusive interview with Doximity CEO Jeff Tangney, and learn how he came up with the idea for Doximity and the vision propelling it.

iTunes link

Discussion ( 7 comments ) Post a Comment
  • I hope this does not become like Sermo which turned into a data mining site for Republicans. I got endless faxes and phone calls for contributions. The CEO of Sermo was constantly on TV during the health care debate claiming to represent the thousands of physicians who signed up for his site (expecting to share clinical info) proclaiming how those doctors didn’t want health care reform. Though this sounds enticing, I am reluctant to fall for a “physician only” app again.

      • I agree with Felasfa that comparing the two is a bit like apples to oranges, but Dorothy, you do bring up one good point – in respect to privacy. If you look at our interview with the CEO, in an article we ran today, you’ll see that he answers this question near the end:

        /20…

        Iltifat Husain iMedicalApps Editor
      • I was not making a political point. I was just sharing how I signed up for another “physician only site” with stringent registration rules and I got data mined!. This makes me very reluctant to sign up for this very enticing app. There is even more potential for abuse of data.

  • I am substantially irritated by the constant barrage of emails in my inbox reporting how so and so and Dr. Whoever just saw my profile on Doximity when I never acceded to my profile being listed. Somebody (Doximity) is just attempting to make money off of physicians under the guise of idealistic innocence. I don’t need an increased level of background noise in my inbox. Go away.

    • I agree. I keep getting copies of emails purportedly sent by me (false) to old colleagues, and clearly identified as false by the use of names I would never use with those people, for example, colleagues with nicknames or ones who use middle names instead of first names, etc. I will try to get out of this mess if I can without changing my email address.

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