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Doctors are people, too. So much so that they’re flocking to a Web “chat room” just for them. Perhaps “chat room” is a misnomer. It’s a Web site called Sermo (sermo is Latin for “talk”), a secure physicians-only community, and it takes the concept of social networking to another level.
Founded by surgeon Dr. Daniel Palestrant, Sermo is an online community where physicians can post messages anonymously, exchange medical insights and get assistance from their peers on tough-to-treat cases.

Sermo is free for physicians and doesn’t accept any advertising. Physicians need to go through a strict credentialing process to ensure they are doctors.

Once they are registered, members post messages, ask questions of their peers and also respond to questions others post on the site.

The community is self-policing, and physicians rate each other, based on their comments. Physicians with good rankings will get an occasional check from Sermo as a thank you for their participation. The doctors’ community rankings are more important to them than getting a $20 check every now and then, Dr. Palestrant says.

Sermo and the American Medical Association recently formed a partnership that offers Sermo physicians free access to popular AMA journals like JAMA and the Archives of Internal Medicine. In return, the AMA can tap into the Sermo community to get feedback on medical advocacy issues and clinical topics for their journals.

This relationship can only help drive more doctors to the site, which currently claims 16,000 registered physicians and says it is adding about 500 members a week.

The business clients may use data from the Web site to better predict potential problems like adverse drug interactions or problems with medical devices.

Dan McKillen is president of the HealthDay news service

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