Sermo unveiled a revamped platform aimed at offering physicians and clients alike faster and more targeted searches.

The physician online community’s new Client Center allows clients to search comments as well as posts with improved filtering, email alerts based on topics of interest and keywords and a streamlined interface.

“We noticed clients were focusing on two use cases,” said Sermo founder and CEO Dr. Daniel Palestrant. “One was the ability to search and then the second one was the ability to get alerted when a topic or product of interest to them might appear in the community. So one of the key refinements we made in this technology was a dramatic improvement in how we do search, so the search mechanisms are far more sophisticated and robust. Clients can not only search the posts themselves but they can search the comments that are subsequently made on a post. We’ve combined that powerful searching mechanism with the alerting mechanisms, because we’ve found that what clients wanted to do was do a search on all the times doctors mentioned Avandia and Januvia, but didn’t want the word ‘diabetes’ or ‘insulin.’ Then they can save that search and get an alert whenever that search is triggered again.”

Contrary to early expectations of social media, clients, he said, value direct engagement over sponsorship. In particular, Palestrant sees increasing demand for what he calls “point shoot point engagement.”

“A brand team might have an idea, so they decide they want to run a survey, so they might survey 100 cardiologists who are in the top prescribers” said Palestrant. “They get the result back 48 hours later. Then they want to move to a panel. They start seeing those results in real time, and then they decide they want to scale this up into a 2,000 physician survey. And that whole process might take a week and cost a quarter of what they would have paid to go through a conventional market research or promotion mechanism.”

Physicians will benefit from the same technology, he said, with faster, better-filtered searches.

Sermo boasts 116,000 physician members – around a fifth of US doctors – and 250 clients, including eight of the top ten pharmas.

Sermo was originally pitched to financial analysts as well as pharmas, market research firms and PR agencies, but the site pivoted away from Wall Street last year. Palestrant said Sermo has seen a 200% increase in use of its Physician Panels, which allow companies to engage physicians in private discussion, from Q1 to Q2, and use of its survey offering rose 40% for the same period.

The five-year-old firm is on track to turn a profit this year, said Palestrant.