Pharma eavesdrops on doctors online

Big Brother is watching pharma's interactions with doctors like never before. No wonder drugmakers are resorting to eavesdropping to take the medical community's pulse. Plus, with today's technology, it's so easy! You don't have to strain to hear conversations at the next table or in the airplane seat behind you. Just log on.

Here's the deal: Doctors are just like most folks. They like to talk shop. And these days, like many of the tech-savvy, they're talking shop online. Social networking sites for doctors are finally taking hold, offering a forum for physicians to trade war stories, seek advice and grouse about insurance companies.

These services are no slouch on the business side; they know a commodity when they see one. So they sell access to the doctors' conversations, "mostly to Big Pharma," Newsweek reports. Now, a couple of companies are even slicing and dicing those conversations by keyword--product name, company name, whatever--and enriching them with demographic profiles. Companies can get a sort of EKG on the number of times their products were mentioned, and click through to get more details.

Even better, the docs on these social sites tend to be the type A, hardworking ones. They "are very aggressive and high-prescribing physicians, which makes them very valuable to the pharma community," Erika Fishman, director of research at Manhattan Research, told the magazine. And better still: Learning from doctors this way doesn't involve forbidden steak dinners or logo-emblazoned handouts. Win-win.

- check out the article in Newsweek