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What Does the Future Hold for Peer Reviewed Medicine?

Would you prescribe a drug just because other doctors “like” it? 

Last month, SERMO announced that its Drug Ratings platform, the largest unbiased, global database of physician feedback on drugs, topped three million data points, further popularizing ratings-based prescribing practices. SERMO has accumulated over 625,000 ratings from 40,000+ physicians on more than 2,1000 pharmaceutical brands. More than 60,000 physicians have used the platform to search for ratings from their peers.  Further, a poll of over 2,900 SERMO physicians found that 83 percent reported that the opinion or feedback of a fellow physician has changed their perception of a drug, while 84 percent believe that Drug Ratings will lead to better patient outcomes.

These numbers and statistics are staggeringly implicative by any standard, but what does this mean for the larger health industry? Should a physician prescribe a drug to meet the needs of an individual patient based on high ratings and recommendations? We imagine most doctors would be on the fence. However, as far as peer influence goes, this trend toward social, ratings-based prescribing practices is a potential game changer for the health industry.

Physicians, and their patients, have always depended on endorsements and referrals when considering treatment plans. However, that influencer mechanism is usually defined within the consumer/commercial world: “How do you like your new car?” or “Four out of five dentists recommend *insert brand name* toothpaste.” And, with the maturation of social media over the past ten years, we have moved beyond the input of immediate social networks to include the opinions of strangers., Platforms like Yelp provide consumer ratings on everything from restaurants to hotels to tourist attractions, and brands like Amazon are powered by hundreds of reviews for every product they sell.

Given the natural trajectory of social media, it was only a matter of time before prescription drug recommendations made their way into mainstream applications among health care professionals. While recommendations have always existed among colleagues, the reach and impact of social media begs the question of how to responsibility connect social endorsement with the risk profiles of an individual patient. It’s one thing for service establishments to influence the decision process, but influencing prescribing behavior and treatment decisions about actual drugs and real patients is an entirely different level of consideration that requires a deeper set of evaluative criteria.

While we’re not privy to how Zagat rates restaurants, or whether it includes third-party comments in its review process, perhaps we should be thinking about the impact SERMO’s Drug Rating platform might have on the FDA’s evaluation, payer consideration and ranking, pharmacy and therapeutics committees, and of course, pharma’s communication and messaging strategy as delivered through reps and non-personal promotion. This medium of Rx therapeutic evaluation stands to be a juggernaut. While SERMO can claim a major milestone in the history of healthcare influence, the real question is when and how peer recommendations will go mainstream, and how will marketers seek to incorporate (and influence) this new variable in their communication stream.