How would you describe the universe of online physician communities? Up until today, there were two historic categories, those launched within the borders of one country and those, generally more recent, that were launched with a global perspective. This of course can change through acquisitions, and one such acquisition was posted today.
One of the first communities to think beyond borders was DocCheck who created a multi-country network in Europe. This was followed by Medting from Spain which integrates Google Translate, Doc2Doc from BMJ in English, and most recently VoxMed which operates in 8 languages.
We could also talk about specialties. Specialties tend to think more globally and work in English, even in non-English speaking countries.
Amongst the national communities, Sermo in the US has generally been cited as "the" example, because the US is the most common eHealth reference. Yet, Doctors.Net of the UK, the object of the acquisition, had been created prior to Sermo and counts more physicians (186k) both in the absolute and as a per cent of the number of practicing physicians in the country than Sermo. The Doctors.net.uk email domain is also cited as the primary email address for many UK physicians. In addition, Doctors.Net developed a working relationship with other important physician communities on the Continent, in France, Germany, Spain, in the past 12 months.
So the August 23rd, 2011 acquisition of Doctors.Net Uk by M3 USA is no minor event. M3 USA manages MDLinx, an English-language medical news publisher of physician-recommended online bibliographies, itself a subsidiary of the Japanese corporation. By placing in one hand, a significant physician presence in Japan, the US, and Europe, this sale most certainly represents a seismic shift in the geopolitics of online physician communities.
Many questions remain. What will physicians gain from this greater proximity with other communities? Will some of the content assets of the acquiring company be applicable to Europe? Will British physicians be comfortable as a subsidiary of a multi-national corporation? Will all of the various partner companies get along in this new constellation? Will multi-country programs be able to work smoothly despite legal and regulatory differences? M3 USA's announced objective is to be able to interface with global companies such as pharma and health investors. Will the new company be able to deliver on global promise? In the current climate, will this put too much emphasis on pharma's rôle?
I am sure the team at Doctors.Net tested out their hypotheses before the sale, and that we'll be seeing some interesting developments in 2012.