Alternative Media: Masters of Their Domain

Now the medical community has its own home on the Web.
Mar 01, 2006

Alana Klein
For years, educational institutions have enjoyed their own Internet domain: .edu. US governmental agencies have .gov, and non-profits have been able to set themselves apart from the crowd with .org in their e-mail and Web addresses. Thanks to changes made to the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS) in 2001, subject-specific vertical segments have been able to flee the .com world for newly established domains, such as .travel, .jobs, .museum, and .info.

Subject-specific domain names have many advantages. Internet addresses are proliferating: Domain registration in the .com and .net domains topped 50 million in 2005, according to Zooknic, a project that tracks use

The entire medical community—physicians, hospitals, medical associations, medical students and residents, pharma and medical device companies, and patient groups—are taking advantage of the .md domain. "Dot md" has currently registered more than 9,000 addresses and represents the only Internet domain that serves the medical community.
of domain names. In a crowded environment, the right domain name can make an address more memorable. It can enhance searching. And in certain cases (most notably .gov and .edu), it serves as a sort of guarantee that a site is what it purports to be.

There has long been interest in a domain dedicated to healthcare, and even a few attempts to launch one. The latest attempt is the new (well, sort of new) .md domain. Begun in 2004, .md currently has registered more than 9,000 addresses, including individual physicians and practices, hospitals (such as the Mayo Clinics at, medical organizations (such as the National Institutes of Health, which owns, and companies, including Merck and Eli Lilly.

It's too early to tell whether the new medical domain will take off and become part of the public consciousness, but if it does, it could offer a new range of opportunities for communicating with physicians and patients. Certainly the experiment is promising enough that pharma marketers need to be aware of it—and perhaps start thinking about addresses they anticipate needing in the future.

Out of Moldova

The appeal to physicians of the letters "md" is obvious. "When doctors see the .md, they are immediately reminded of all the hard work and training it took them to earn their degree," says Seanne Murray, senior vice president of business development and strategic partnerships for MaxMD, the company that markets .md. "It makes them feel valued to have their own separate online identity." Still, when the system of top-level domain names was created, .md was assigned not to physicians, but to the former Soviet state of Moldova.

Moldova may own .md, but that doesn't mean that physicians can't use it as well. MaxMD has licensed the right to market .md in more than 90 countries (though not in Moldova itself). The company's goal is to create a full-fledged online community of healthcare providers. For now, it is pursuing that goal by developing a range of services designed to meet specific physician needs.

Already available are Web design and hosting for physician practices that want their own sites, and an e-mail service, using proprietary software created by BlueTie, designed to be compliant with the privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The e-mail service includes spam and virus filtering, secure encrypted communication of confidential information, full audit capability, and access control for commonly used electronic documents.

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