This post describing how a family doctor sought prescription advice from fellow members of the Sermo community demonstrates everything that is good, as well as things that are less good, about the velvet rope professional peer-to-peer healthcare communities.
On the one hand, yes, the doctor’s query produced a surge of responses from the community. On the other, it took several days for consensus to be reached. Such reports from the trenches offer signposts to the future, but also raise difficult questions.
The fact that her original enquiry provoked ‘a lively discussion[…] in the days that followed’ certainly challenges the promise of Sermo’s ‘know more, know earlier’ strapline.
At some point in the intermediate future, status update platforms such as Twitter (existing inside or outside of professional P2P sites, although the latter does at least validate the status of the poster as a healthcare professional) which have attracted a sufficient number of professional members and specialists on a global basis will have the capacity to provide real-time Dx and Rx advice.
However, how can the advice be filtered for accuracy and relevance, with the most appropriate content appearing first, and inaccurate or dubious advice being channeled into another data stream?
In addition, how can debate be curtailed in order to expedite the production of a result without making participants feel that their contribution has been overlooked or that their voice stifled, which would indubitably diminsh their willingness to participate in the future?
Both of these questions presuppose an acceptance of the validity of the concepts underlying evidence-based medicine and a desire to see its benefits transposed into evidence-based practice. They also assume that the participants in this exchange of ideas are amenable to steering their interactions between the Scylla of EBM guidelines and Charybdis of social networking’s indisputable utility in facilitating interaction between healthcare professionals.
How can the competition between evidence and eminence in this description of a possible future for professional P2P healthcare communities be managed?
Thanks to @PediatricInc for the link