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Physician Assistants Establish Online Presence


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-10-08-2008
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Issue 0

With the launch of Clinician 1, physician and nurse assistants now have a place to share information online. The increase in No-See doctors and general difficulty for reps to meet with prescribers might make this the opportunity for pharma to reach a major stakeholder.

As face-time with doctors is increasingly limited, the role of physician and nurse practitioners has become integral in the healthcare system. However, it hasn’t exactly become easier for PAs and NPs to obtain information about drugs and treatments. That’s about to change.

Launched last week, Clinician 1 is a Facebook-style social networking site targeted to the 200,000 physician and nurse practitioners that prescribe drugs in all 50 states. It features personal information pages, medical education, and areas to facilitate two-way conversations between like-minded clinicians.

“We found that as we looked at ways to serve the informational and social needs of both these professions, a social network/community was needed,” said Dave Mittman, physician assistant and co-founder of Clinician 1.

Most importantly, Mittman and his partner Spencer Falk believed that the site should not have physicians on it. To enroll in the site, potential members must include their state license number and sign a digital affidavit swearing to their identity as a PA or NA.

“Nurse practitioners and PAs have their own special needs regarding things like running a clinic in rural areas, barriers to practice, hospital privileges-many of the things that physicians take for granted and wouldn’t see any merit in reading,” Mittman said. “PAs and NAs tend to feel invisible within the healthcare system.”

The site highlights different categories based on medical specialties and interests. Everything from retail clinicians, parenting issues, and military PAs are represented on the site. Also, much like you can pick friends in Facebook or Myspace, you can choose colleagues on Clinician 1. The site also includes about 50 hours of free continuing medical education, a repository of articles, and streaming news feeds.

Clinician 1 began development in January 2008 as a part time project between Mittman and Falk, who have both, incidentally, continued their careers as PAs. The site experienced some minor housekeeping hiccups after launch, but no major problems.

“We didn’t think we’d have 10,000 enrollees the first week, and we thought that just opening it up and getting the glitches fixed even after it was up and running would be fine. It hasn’t been too difficult,” Mittman said.

Opportunity Knocks
Knowing that PAs and NAs are some of the top drug prescribers in the industry, pharma would do well to pay close attention for future opportunities. Clinician 1 does not currently have any pharma sponsors, but Mittman and Falk are looking at the possibility of sponsorship.
Obviously, social networks have been a sticking point with pharma companies.

“At this point, we are unsure as to what pharma wants to do and what the FDA wants to do with social community sites that have people possible speaking about unapproved indications and adverse reactions,” Mittman said. As of now, FDA has issued no regulations as to how pharma should proceed in regards to either establishing or taking part in a social network.

Experts have said that it would be in pharma’s best interest to partner with a social networking site, rather than start their own. As of now interest has been high, but implementation has been non-existent.

“We want to be able to educate our members about new products and new indications, and things that happen in both the clinical device and pharmaceutical fields,” Mittman said. “Access to information about pharmaceutical products is really decreasing. Hospitals are banning detail people, large group practices are banning sales reps-even the exhibit halls are going to be a different place without branded pens and pads.

“Pharma and non-pharma are going to be faced with the task of getting information-especially about products that can change the life of a person with a chronic illness-across to the physicians, Mittman continued. “We see a place for Clinician 1 and all the other social networking sites, and we are waiting for guidance to see where that goes.”

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