A paper published in Nature Digital Medicine has helped to quantify clinicians’ use of virtual, peer-to-peer medical second opinion networks
The study looked at use of Medscape Consult, the largest free-to-use network website which allows clinicians to seek virtual second opinions on cases. The study looked at a two year period, over which 7834 questions elicited 110,000 responses. The median response rate was 90 minutes, with 90% of questions receiving an answer.
Interestingly, 67% of interactions were conducted via mobile device rather than computer, offering an insight into the environment in which clinicians are interacting with the system.
Additionally, 90% of the 37,700 active users only offered advice, rather than posting questions, and >60% of users only used the platform once, creating a single question or answer. This suggests that use of such platforms in a routine fashion isn’t common, and that the site is still being used as a tool to solve a specific problem.
Internal medicine appears particularly highly represented, with 27% of users (three times higher than the next most popular speciality), though this may simply be because the tool is better known in some specialities.
Platforms such as Medscape Consult offer clinicians the opportunity to take advantage of a broader pool of specialists than is available in their institution. This is particularly for clinicians outside of major hospitals, where virtual access to experienced specialists can be a valuable resource.