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Sermo as a model for online information sharing: successes and challenges

Date & Time:
16:00:00 - 17:30:00,
Monday 5 November, 2007


Sermo is an online community whose membership is currently restricted to licensed US physicians. Sermo embodies components of prediction markets, game theory, and social network theory to incentivize physicians to share clinical observations and aggregate these observations and opinions to detect emerging trends in clinical medicine, such as disease outbreaks or problems with regulated drugs.

Sermo also embodies an alternative business model in which the interests of outside groups to listen in and ask questions of the physician community is monetized, while the members are provided with a community space free of advertising and subscriptions fees. Additionally, as a component of its arbitrage business model, Sermo passes through a portion of its proceeds as a financial incentive for member participation.

In its first year, Sermo’s membership has grown to over 30,000 US physicians, representing more than 5% of all physicians in the United States. It has consistently achieved high participation rates, with ~15% of its user base actively contributing information on a weekly basis, and has established partnerships with key organizations in US healthcare.

In its ideal form, Sermo is empowering physicians with a collective voice, and taking that voice to outside groups to effect change. In this presentation we will review the strengths and weaknesses of Sermo’s community and information architecture and some of Sermoís lessons learned from its first year of operation.

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  • Name: Alex Frost
  • Affiliation: VP for Research Initiatives, Sermo
  • Role:
  • URL:
  • Bio: Alex Frost is Vice President for Research Initiatives at Sermo, Inc. In his role at Sermo, Alex leads business development and is responsible for establishing strategic alliances with medical societies, publishers, government agencies, and patient safety organizations. He is the architect of Sermo’s recently announced relationships with the AMA, FDA, and medical publishers. Prior to Sermo, Alex was the founder and president of Science Editors Company, a consulting firm involved in strategic planning, proposal development, and science communications. Over the course of his twelve-year tenure, he led the development of proposals resulting in over $500 million in funding for US-based research centers. Prior to founding Science Editors Company, Alex was a Senior Science Writer and Editor at Biology Editors Company and a bench researcher in cell biology. During the course of his career, his clients have included the United Nations, NASA, Encyclopaedia Britannica, and more than 100 biotech companies and academic research centers. At Sermo, Alex continues to pursue his interests in new models for information exchange and peer review.