Daniel Palestrant, M.D., Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cambridge-based Sermo, Inc., was a guest on last week’s Pharma Marketing Talk live podcast entitled “Collaborating with Online Physician Communities.”

Palestrant claims that the decision to collaborate with Pfizer and eventually other pharmaceutical companies was based in part on feedback from Sermo members.

“Aside from the topical discussions,” said Palestrant, “the Sermo community generates quantitative data through multiple-choice polls that physicians can set up whenever they post a message. Through this polling, we discovered that consistently more than 50% of respondents were in favor of having some kind of interaction with the industry.

“Our choice was either one of engagement or contention. We’ve decided on engagement. Through both structured and unstructured means, our community will be engaging with industry in a very broad and unprecedented transparent fashion.”

This is in sharp contrast to the online physician communities of yesterday — Physicians Online (POL) being the grand-daddy of them all. POL — active many years ago — was adamant about protecting their community from interaction with the pharmaceutical industry. Palestrant noted that times have changed:

“As exciting as POL was, at the time [1994-1997], only 20% or less of physicians had access to the Internet whereas today practically 100% of physicians are online,” said Palestarnt. “Back then the Pharma world was also in a very different place in terms of their interactions with physicians. So times have certainly changed.

“I firmly believe that it is better to engage the industry rather than block them out. Sermo has developed technology that allows this engagement or flow of information in such a way so that it’s a win-win situation for the community and the outside parties introducing the information.”

During the podcast interview, Palestrant described the Sermo-Pfizer collaboration in more detail, talked about FDA and adverse event monitoring via Sermo, compared traditional academic-based physician thought leaders with the new breed of online, bedside thought leaders to be found on Sermo, and other topics.

You can listen to the podcast audio archive here or read a summary of the conversation along with other information about online collaboration between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry in the upcoming October issue (preview) of Pharma Marketing News (free subscription here).