Largest online doctor network launches iConsult app for iPhone

Consultation site will be Droid-enabled by year's end

The nation's largest online physician community is touting the launch of an iPhone app that allows doctors to consult each other in near real time.

Sermo an online network with about 130,000 vetted physician members, said its new Sermo Mobile iConsult application allows iPhone users to post patient cases on message boards in real time for consultation purposes.

The site also allows its doctors to post hyperlinks, PDF files, high-resolution radiological images and photos. While the site doesn't support video to date, Dr. Adam Sharp, Sermo's chief medical officer, said it will do so eventually.

"The core value proposition is that...if we created a secure environment online where physicians could connect with one another, it would provide a benefit and value to them," Sharp said. "The core function of the site is that physicians can put any content they like on the site."

Among the content posted to date: clinical case studies, questions regarding a particular treatment and comments about the politics of healthcare reform. So far, more than 40 physicians have posted, Sharp said.

The site generates revenue by allowing healthcare vendors and government agencies to contact physician members to get their insight through online panels and surveys. It also allows physicians to choose from pre-populated list of questions, such as "diagnosis please" and "have you seen this?" Just as in brick-and-mortar hospital hallways, the physicians on the site keep the confidentiality of their patients; names and other identifying information is omitted from postings.

According to Sharp, consultation requests posted to the site receive answers from members in five to 12 minutes. "It's been very successful. It's early, but we're far exceeding our projections in terms of downloads and activity," he said. "Our plan is to roll this out to Droid phones by the end of the year."

To date, 5,000 physicians have signed up for iConsult, according to Sharp.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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