Sometimes it’s not just what you know, but who you know. That is one of the important lessons we’ve learned from the most active members of our specialized online medical communities. These members report benefits that go beyond social networking: The more you engage with your Skipta community, the better the outcomes for practices and patients. Below is a sampling of community benefits, courtesy of some of our most engaged members.
How often do you wonder how a change in dosing will affect outcomes? What about novel ways to motivate your diabetic patients to adhere to their strict diets – what’s working for other clinicians? Comparing notes on clinical challenges and experiences with peers is a valuable practice.
A member of one of our communities recently shared an experience about a 23-year-old female patient who sought help after a major depressive episode. The patient’s mother had bipolar disorder and the clinician wanted to understand the possible influence of family history. Eight community members responded almost immediately, and their insights were helpful in determining a diagnosis. Some also responded about possible medications that could be relevant to the patient’s case.
Dr. Neil Minkoff, now chief medical officer at EmpiraMed, is one of many who believe in the value of comparing notes on clinical challenges and experiences. He recalls when he first heard of a cure for hepatitis C. “We had active discussions about which patients would benefit from the treatment, and it went beyond just what to do with a positive result. We even shared experiences about how to discuss coverage options with health plans.” The “we” refers to fellow clinicians outside the walls of Minkoff’s practice, within his Skipta community.
Healthcare isn’t one-size-fits-all and community members embrace the role of collaborator, assessing cases and sharing information that might be helpful to fellow clinicians. Interactions with other professionals not only reinforce existing clinical knowledge, but also enable members to see things from different viewpoints.
Staying current on the latest treatment guidelines, medical safety updates, reimbursement considerations and other topics isn’t easy. While publications and specialty journals play an important role, Skipta News can be a more efficient and, at times, more effective way to stay informed. News content for each Skipta community is curated by specialty, ensuring it’s relevant for those in that specialty and network of peers. It enables instant feedback and discussion: A member who posts an article or news story might explain why they think the article is important and people will comment on that. What’s more, when new clinical guidelines are released, through the platform, active members rely on Skipta-enabled communications with fellow clinicians to understand the challenges of implementation.
News is available as it happens. Unlike some industry publications, Skipta’s frequent posts are up-to-date and include advance looks at what’s coming, which can help inform a treatment plan. “Say you have a case that is not responding well or is not tolerant to the current guidelines,” says Meijer pharmacist Alan Tanabe. “Reading a relevant article on other treatment options could prompt a discussion with the provider or physician about whether the alternative could be an option for that patient.” Tanabe also appreciates the ability to follow selected cases, articles, and topics and members, “so I get an alert whenever someone posts or comments on something I’ve chosen to follow.”
Our members are strapped for time, so a powerful search function is valuable. Keyword searches for colleagues, medications, trending topics and more provide valuable, just-in-time information. This is incredibly useful for members that have only minutes between patients.
The search function can be helpful when a patient raises a concern about a medication. Today, patients routinely research symptoms, conditions and treatments online, and not all websites are useful or reputable. Yet, patients constantly reference what they’ve read on various sites to justify a certain medication, self-diagnosis or alternative treatment. When this happens, Skipta members can quickly search their community using hashtags or key words to find articles and other content that can help them counsel the patient.
Your professional community is a valuable resource, but not if it remains small and untapped. Across specialties on Skipta, the common refrain is that an expanding community is a useful community: The more it grows, the more ways you’ll find to use it.
“The thing that excites me most about Skipta, between the different communities, direct messages, the Curbside Consults, etc., is the ability to recreate the informal clinician-to-clinician knowledge exchanges within the large, tight-knit professional community that used to exist in hospitals back in the 80s, which I feel is a lost part of medicine,” Minkoff says.
The ability to follow other members can also help broaden your professional network and stimulate more interactions. If a member posts or comments on something of interest to another member, you can take the initiative to follow that person. So, when s/he comments on something relevant in the future, you are alerted and can access a larger conversation around the topic. Over time, this further expands the number of your professional relationships.
You can use Skipta in the ways that work best for you. Members who are most vocal about community value say they log in an average of three to four times a week. Frequency is key because the more members give, the more they’ll get. And it doesn’t have to be a big investment of time; it’s more about making it part of your personal or practice workflow and using time efficiently.
Members can check-in for just 5–10 minutes a day, a few days per week, and be active, vibrant members of their communities. It doesn’t take long to respond to a direct message, scan the headlines, look at potential opportunities, or pose a question about what others in your community think about new research, difficult patients or a clinical conundrum.
Tanabe checks in every other day and usually posts something about once a week. “I’m kind of a pharmacy news nerd, so as I find articles I think others might find interesting and helpful, I’ll post them to share with the community,” he explains.
Despite hectic schedules, investing time in collaboration and the exchange of information and ideas is vital for clinicians who are dedicated to improving patient outcomes. Having the ability to tap into a community of peers and industry thought-leaders is an obvious advantage. But, as Minkoff explains, “Skipta is an investment.” He and other members say that what you get out of your community membership correlates to what you – and your fellow members – put into it. The power of Skipta communities is its members, and a small investment of time can pay big dividends to practices and patients every day. Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of your practice is just a few clicks away.