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Jul 1
Sermo Docs Launch An Online Health Reform Movement: Will It Matter?

Over the July 4th weekend, expect to see fireworks in a town near you and ondoctors_unite.png your television.  Today, a bill that was supposed to institute a 10.6% cut in Medicare payments for doctors was supposed to go into effect.  However, after significant opposition from physicians -- and  health plans (which oppose cuts in reimbursements for privately managed Medicare advantage plans) -- Congress is set to find a way to restore the cuts.  

However, both American Medical Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans plan to launch a series of advertisements opposing the bill that will air over the holiday break.  

While these moves by major advocacy organizations are expected, what’s more surprising is that physicians -- without official support from the American Medical Association –- have taken matters into their own hands.  Today, Sermo the physician-only social network announced what it is calling a historic campaign designed to raise “national awareness about the real healthcare issues” facing doctors.  

More than 5,000 physicians have signed an open letter that highlights the “challenges physicians face in delivering appropriate patient care.”  The letter targets three industry players physicians are saying keep them from delivering care to patients: insurance companies, government and malpractice lawyers.  You can read the full text of the letter here.


What’s most interesting is that the campaign was initiated by physicians using Sermo, not the social network.  On their Website, the physicians behind the campaign said they chose Sermo because it reduces the “fragmentation of our profession  . . . that has prevented them from influencing policy in the [US] health system.”  

This campaign certainly illustrates the power of the Internet in general and social networks in particular to organize large numbers of people around a common cause.  However, the question remains, will it matter?  The physicians behind the social network are competing against a range of interests, including the AMA in an effort to influence national health policymaking.  

It turns out that the physicians have already thought about this issue.  They plan to “establish a non-profit organization that will be focused on elevating the . . . campaign and . . . [affecting] change in healthcare."

All in all, this is an interesting campaign, which illustrates how the Internet and social networks are becoming powerful catalysts for group action -- especially in health.  Look for more from physicians behind the Open Letter campaign.  Once the letter is signed by 10,000 physicians Sermo plans to work with an as yet unnamed advertising agency, which will provide $1 million in pro-bono support to help promote the campaign.  

[Disclosure: I have spoken with Sermo executives about the company and issues related to social media marketing communications (most recently on the Digital Health Revolution).  However, we have not discussed, nor have I been asked to write about the Doctors Unite campaign.]

3 Comments/Trackbacks

» Sermo Physicians Launch Doctors Unite Campaign from Trusted.MD Network
Can online social networking by health care professionals be the catalysts for group action and change in the health care industry? [Read More]


I disagree that this illustrates social networking as a catalyst of group action. First of all, I cannot find who signed this document by going to the site you link to. Secondly, signers can be anonymous although certified as US physicians via Sermo. How are lawmakers supposed to respond to this? Can they know if these physicians are in their districts? Are they supposed to heed anonymous sour grapes?

For all I know, the physician initiating this may have been one of those Pfizer physicians.

It's frightening to see an anonymous group get so much publicity and free too! This smacks more of a ploy by Sermo to gain recognition than anything else.

That's my opinion and I'm sticking to it!



The Open Letter campaign in completely grassroots and independent. As the doctor initiating the campaign, I'm not affiliated with Pfizer or even Sermo. Physicians now have a real opportunity to come together and take the lead in a new wave of healthcare reform. So far 80% of doctors have signed the letter in their name, leaving only 20% anonymous. This doesn't really matter much though. Our overall strategy is to take collective action and not rely of politicians to do it for us. We're not interested in conducting politics as usual. We have a strong vision that will soon be enhanced and supported under a new and aggressive nonprofit organization, which will continue to use Sermo as a neutral platform of communication.

Sean Khozin, MD, MPH

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