Merck-owned Physicians Interactive scoops up digital doc community to bolster services

Digital healthcare content and marketing platform Physicians Interactive, which is a wholly owned independent subsidiary of Merck ($MRK), just got bigger. Last week, it bought QuantiaMD, a popular peer-to-peer physician network, adding the key community of doctors to the digital health services it already offers.

Physicians Interactive Healthcare Professionals Chief Product Officer Martin Dubuc

The addition of Quantia builds out PI's professional platform, with Quantia reaching one-third of the physicians in the U.S. Users spend an average of 20 minutes per mobile or online session, the company reported. PI also has a consumer division, MedHelp.

"What we saw in Quantia was a very strong and trusted community where physicians go to learn and engage with each other and with experts," Martin Dubuc, chief product officer for Physicians Interactive's healthcare professional division, told FiercePharmaMarketing. "Its social learning environment is pretty unique."

Quantia's business model is built around creating co-developed "client-specific content," which is paid for, but also clearly marked as coming from pharma or healthcare provider partners. Quantia also charges fees to carry continuing education content from accredited third parties.

Dubuc noted that Quantia's portfolio--including "many large pharmas" and healthcare marketing partnerships--will remain at the core of that business model, and he noted that the initial reaction about potential use from current PI clients has been very favorable. When asked about PI's Merck corporate parent and any potential conflicts, a PI spokeswoman noted that PI is run independently of Merck pharma and is held under Merck's Global Health Innovation Fund. It has its own board and management structure, and no one at Physicians Interactive is considered a Merck employee or even owns Merck stock, she said.

Quantia's physician network competitors include Doximity, created by the founders of Epocrates, and Sermo.

- read PI's release