5 Questions... with Cliff Chirls, President and COO of iMedExchange

Shivani Parmar, MPH
Published: Thursday, Dec 11, 2008
1 What is the mission of iMedExchange?

iMedExchange is a social networking site that is all about connecting physicians to each other and to information that’s tailored to physicians in three areas: clinical, business, and personal. Our focus is not just clinical; that’s because we see doctors as human beings first and doctors second. Our site has broader implications for enhancing a physician’s life, as opposed to enhancing just his or her ability to either diagnose or treat a specific condition.

2 What drew you to iMedExchange?

I thought that no one had really gotten it right when it came to developing an online place for physicians, much like a virtual physician’s lounge, where they could be comfortable with each other and discuss not just clinical issues, but business, personal, and other interests, regardless of whether they were clinically oriented. All of this was very exciting to me because I have a father, cousins, and uncles who are all physicians, and so I have an intimate personal and familial interest in enhancing physicians’ lives. I understand that they have needs that go well beyond clinical interests.

3 How many physicians have joined so far?

We launched the site at the end of June 2008, and there are now roughly 3,000 physicians who have joined, so it’s growing pretty rapidly. We expect to have well over 10,000 physicians before the end of this calendar year and possibly much higher.

4 How does iMedExchange diff er from other physician social networking sites?

Many of the sites out there, such as Sermo, are clinically oriented, and not business- and personal-oriented. Our view of the physician’s interest is much broader and more comprehensive. Our business model is also very different than Sermo’s, whose interest is in aggregating the information from the posts and the comments the physicians post on their site and selling that information to both Wall Street and to pharmaceutical firms. We don’t do that. The information on our site is confidential, both on an individual and collective basis. We make money to support the site through online advertising, much like Facebook or LinkedIn. We have created a place where advertisers can focus on physicians, and have physicians receive content targeted and tailored specifically for them.

5 What features are unique to iMedExchange?

In addition to a comprehensive view of physicians’ interests, we have partners in an area of the site called “Resource Centers.” These partners include HealthDay, which provides summaries of 26 articles per day by specialty, as well as talks from the 300 conferences each year. We also have the medical law letter, which provides interesting information on malpractice and other medically related legal issues. We have a fi nancial resource center, with partners like the Abernathy Group, that manages money for physicians in New York. In the personal area, we started out with the wine merchant Ambrosia, which provides interesting information on how to choose wines. In fact, there’s a widget on the page that allows users to do wine and food pairing, so you can say “tonight I’m going to have fi sh,” and it will give you lots of wine suggestions depending on the type of fi sh that you’re serving.

We also have discussion groups and forums so that physicians can again talk to each other on topics unrelated to the practice of medicine if they so choose. We have a lot to offer in terms of content that is specially tailored to interests of physicians. We spent an enormous amount of time and effort asking physicians what they wanted in terms of an online social networking site. In fact, during the nine months prior to our launch in June, we had 225 physician advisors who owned a small amount of equity in iMedExchange giving us regular feedback on the site, and we continue to ask our members and our advisors for their thoughts on how we should continue to enhance iMedExchange. You know our site is very much in the interest of physicians when more than 90% of our investors are also physicians.


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