Medscape, a popular source of medical news and information for many hundreds of thousands of physicians globally, just released a new mobile first platform, called Medscape Consult™. It allows physicians to crowdsource answers to clinical questions and crowdshare clinical cases.
According to the press release about the product, the new tool will allow physicians to:
- Post Cases: Share interesting or challenging de-identified cases and consult with other physicians
- Comment: Discuss cases or questions by posting attributed comments
- Search for Answers: Seek targeted, authoritative answers at the point of care
- Ask Questions: Pose clinical questions to the Medscape community and thought leaders
- Connect and Collaborate: Engage medical colleagues and experts in clinical discussion
- Raise Their Profile: Build an online presence and showcase clinical expertise that can help expand their digital footprint in the medical community
This sounded very cool, so I decided to check it out via an online demonstration of the product. Here is what I learned from Ben Greenberg, WebMD Vice President, Product Management & User Experience, who led me through the demo.
Fits into doctors’ native workflow
First of all, you don’t have to download a separate app to access Medscape Consult. Rather, clinicians use the same Medscape app that most of them already have on their iPhones (the Android version of Medscape Consult is still in development). At any time when you are looking something up in Medscape’s Drugs & Diseases reference database, you will be able to ask questions of participating peers or pose learnings to share with the group. (Currently is it only available for conditions, not drugs.)
Alternatively, if you are itching to show off that cool EKG or unusual x-ray or photograph from one of your cases, you can upload it, and ask the group what they think.
Medscape provides written guidelines so you don’t inadvertently violate HIPAA. They have also included a photo editor so you can block out personal health identifying information, such as tattoos, scars, and so forth. Ben tells me Medscape also has people monitoring the platform that can quickly remove any offending posts.
When I asked Ben how Medscape Consult differed from other platforms, such as Doximity, that also encourage anonymized case sharing, he said, he felt like the integration of the crowdsourcing feature into the already widely used content database makes it easier for doctors to engage as it “fits into their native workflow.” They don’t have to leave one app and go to another.
He also thought their reach was broader. Although I don’t have exact statistics, this may well be true. A recent article in MobiHealthNews quotes WebMD CEO David Schlanger as saying “the company already has about 1.5 million physician users outside the United States and has partnerships in both China and Japan.” Doximity describes it reach as 60% of the doctors in the U.S..
Another differentiator is that Medscape Consult has created a moderated environment with editorial oversight via one more of their ~8,000 paid expert authors. These physicians monitor posts and respond with clearly marked featured comments. Although this does not ensure that every less than authoritative answer is screened out, it does give clinicians some confidence that a physician considered by Medscape to be knowledgeable about the topic has participated in the crowdsourced response.
Medscape says that “combined with access to Medscape’s reference content and decision-support, Medical Consult is designed to provide physicians with peer-to-peer insights and evidence-based answers at the point of care.” Because the product is very new—it was released less than one week ago—it is too early to know if crowdsourced answers will be timely enough to be used at the point of care, but given the huge number of physicians, in many different time zones, who use Medscape, it is quite possible that they will be able to live up to this aspiration.
WebMD’s President, Steve Zatz says,
“We have created Medscape Consult to help physicians provide better patient care, and we’ll continue to integrate physician feedback to ensure as clinically robust a tool as possible. With Medscape Consult, we hope to improve patient outcomes by harnessing the collective knowledge of the professional healthcare community so that physicians can solve, share, search and collaborate on clinical cases.”
Medscape Consult’s mobile-first launch will be followed, in early 2016, with Medscape Consult for desktop.
This is a great, easy-to-use tool that I wish I had had when I was in practice. We would love to hear what you think…please leave your comments below.
Meanwhile, kudos to the Medscape team for rolling out a well-thought out product.