As paper charts and pagers slowly go the way of VCRs and record players, the way that physicians communicate and collaborate is slowly joining the 21st century too. Part of this evolution is the growth of social networks for physicians. Among them is Doximity, which goes a step beyond traditional social networks by offering features such as HIPAA-compliant communication tools, e-fax tools, and more.

Over the past few days, we had an opportunity to take an exclusive early peak at Doximity’s newly released native app for the iPad. Along with the release comes the announcement that they have now reached 160,000 users. With estimates that as many as 72% of physicians have tablets, this news is likely to catch the eye of many healthcare professionals. Here, we’ll share our preliminary impressions of the app in advance of our full review that will kick off a series on platforms and tools that enable physicians to collaborate more in richer, more efficient, and more effective ways.

Note: This is not a full app review, rather a preliminary look at the app and commentary on some of its features. Keep an eye out for our full review to come!

The app opens to the Find screen initially, a section we’ll look at more closely in our full review. As an aside, I do wonder about the choice to open on that screen in the first place; I’d much rather open to Discuss as that is likely to be the most dynamic area of the app. Using the lower navigation bar, we’ll shift over to the Fax-Mail section, which I think is one of the two most exciting features to the app. As I’ve commented on before, the way we communicate with each-other is absurdly antiquated.

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The unique feature here is that the way the online messaging platform has been integrated with a fee e-fax service is seamless as far as the user experience goes, enabling this service to bridge what is hopefully the future with what is, sadly, still our present. This feature, in particular, is one that many users may find actually saves them time by helping them communicate more efficiently.

The obvious limitation here is the number of physicians for whom information is available, though Doximity’s member base is pretty impressive. The other consideration is the exclusion of physician assistants & NP’s, not to mention other allied health professionals – their numbers and role in healthcare delivery is increasing at a pretty rapid pace. Finally, one has to wonder about institutional policies that would apply here – as healthcare continues to consolidate, physician behavior will increasingly be governed by the policies defined by risk-averse lawyers.

The other feature we’ll comment on in this preliminary review is the Discuss section. These types of discussion forums are increasingly offering physicians and other healthcare providers with a new way to engage their peers and learn in a collaborative fashion. Typically, discussion and debate is restricted to immediate peers – colleagues we see on a regular basis, are in our professional circles, and so on. Now conversations about interesting research findings, controversial policy, or perplexing patients can engage a much broader group and hopefully create richer interactions.

The UI applied here is beautifully designed – I really like how the full comments drop down when you tap “See all comments.” I also like the ability to view linked articles within the app as opposed to switching over to Safari. That being said, one limitation here is that many articles are not accessible as full-texts (see below).

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Ed: We have blurred out the profiles/comments. Each comment is associated with a profile picture, a timestamp, and the comment.

Doximity certainly isn’t the only one to offer this type of discussion – QuantiaMD, Docphin, and Read all come to mind. They each have their relative advantages and disadvantages. Read, for example, offers the ability to access full text PDFs of articles through institutional subscriptions, something Doximity doesn’t do. On the other hand, Read doesn’t allow for user-generated discussion threads (think patient cases) like Doximity and QuantiaMD do.

Overall, Doximity offers some unique, interesting, and (most importantly) useful tools that take it a step beyond just a traditional social network. The aim really seems to be to change the way physicians communicate with each-other on a day-to-day basis rather than layering a social network on top of our existing practices; that is, at least the potential of features like combined fax/messaging and iRounds. It is certainly not perfect yet, with some glitches here and there (like the filter on the Find section). Overall though, the move over to the iPad comes with a clean, engaging, and bright UI that makes this app easy and fun to use.

Keep an eye out for our full review, coming soon!

Disclosure: iMedicalApps Editor Felasfa Wodajo serves as an advisor to Doximity. He was not involved in the selection of this app for review, app review, or writing of this piece.