Five key components to building an online community for physicians
This is the second post of 4 in preparation of the #hccmty flipped panel by Blair Ryan, CEO of The Rounds, Canada’s fastest growing, secure, online network, exclusively for physicians.
All 4 panelists will be presenting their ideas and sparking conversations on this blog so that the on-stage event at the February 25 #hccmty meetup will be but one more link in the chain, not the start or end point. Read the first blog by Colin Hung.
For more information on the #hccmty event.
“How is The Rounds different from other physician communities?” is a question we at The Rounds are asked quite frequently. In other words, what have we done differently that has contributed to our success?
There are multiple ways to answer those questions. For instance, nothing at The Rounds has come without hard work and dedication, nor has it come without vision and belief in the fundamental need for a place for physicians to gather in a secure and engaged network. First, it is important to explain how we at The Rounds consider and define ‘community’.
A community is a place where people who share common interests, values and intentions gather to engage and support with each other in relation to those common interests and goals.
When it comes to The Rounds, this means we’ve created a place, (an environment, if you will) where physicians interact in meaningful ways to bring about significant and meaningful outcomes, especially in terms of patient care.
With this in mind, when it comes to the concept of ‘community building’, we’ve boiled it down to five key factors that contribute to our success.
Relinquishing control & listening
The difference between The Rounds and many other – if not most – online communities is that it is self-moderated by our physician members. That is, we relinquish control of the flow of information and the the comments and replies which, in turn, facilitates more realistic dialogue. This also creates a greater sense of ownership and power for physicians and therefore reinforces the concept of community.
To put this into context, let’s compare the interactions on The Rounds to the interactions on the comments section of a major news publication. On a newspaper site, commenters are all invested in the same news story, but do not share the common goal of supporting or connecting with each other. On The Rounds, commenters are replying to posts created by fellow physicians with the implicit desire to assist, augment and grow the collective knowledge base.
Concurrent to the need to relinquish control over the flow of information within the site, is the requirement that The Rounds listen to the needs of members. By listening, we are better able to build a product that eases the flow of information. In fact, we just rolled out a new version of the site that is entirely based on user feedback.
Creating trust and having trust
We can all relate to the fear of surrendering control of something to someone else. The uncertainty of the outcome can be frightening. But, in order for a true community to exist in an environment like The Rounds, there must be trust. We must trust that our physician members have their own best interests at heart and we must continuously remind our members that they can trust us to maintain that environment for them.
This is why we allow full-fledged discourse on The Rounds on any topic that is posted – from patient specific cases to clinical challenges, issues of ethical concern to running a private practice and beyond. Furthermore, we always remind members that The Rounds is entirely HIPAA and PIPEDA compliant – meaning the network is a trusted and secure place where they can always feel at ease to share opinions, comments and so on.
While we make every effort to relinquish control and allow members to self-moderate, The Rounds also seeks to reinforce the inherent value of the network by way of reminders and suggestions. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest for the trees, so every once in a while, we’ll send a note to those within the network suggesting that they connect with a certain physician or consider a certain post that may have been overlooked. This approach still permits us to be ‘hands off’ the information, but helps to bring awareness to the overall value contained within The Rounds.
Private & secure
It almost goes without saying that, for The Rounds, having a private and secure place to establish community is paramount. Physicians are saddled daily by concerns of doctor-patient confidentiality, HIPAA and PIPEDA legislation, ethical questions surrounding use of traditional social media channels and so on. The Rounds is successful at community building because we help physician overcome all of those challenges are more.
Here’s the big one. The ultimate. Arguably the most important and immutable essence of The Rounds. It is free for physicians to join. We have studies showing physicians would be willing to pay to be part of The Rounds. So why is it free, you ask? Because keeping our network free for physicians is what allows us to focus on the other four components of community building (relinquishing control, privacy & security, value and trust-building). Physicians spend years increasing their knowledge and experience, often spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to do so. We do not want to add to that burden in anyway at all, even if it’s by implicitly requiring a physician to make a choice to spend money on this community. We have a safe, secure, valuable community that is full of knowledge and potential to increase patient outcomes – making that community free to join is crucial to success.
This post is just grazing the surface of what it means to build a physician community online. We hope that you consider the talking points presented here and bring your questions, knowledge and ideas to the #hccmty Meetup on Feb 25, 2015!
Let’s get the conversation started here:
- Do you think online communities can be self-moderating?
- What do you think are the key components to success when building a thriving online community?
- Is an online community really the brass ring you are seeking? by Colin Hung
- Don’t Knock the Nudge: Moving from online community engagement to real-life behaviour change in health by Robyn Sussel
- “Is anyone there?” – Is your online community a ghost town? by Colleen Young