What might you overhear if you got 100,000 doctors together in one virtual room? You could find out if you had access to the social network Sermo. It’s just one of a growing cadre of sites designed for the nation’s practicing physicians. Here, doctors from across the country can consult each other about the ordinary and the weird (or "zebras" in the lingo). There are queries about treatments for everything from plantar warts to photographs of mystifying rashes and even questions about an unfortunate fellow with postorgasmic nausea.
But there are other questions as yet unanswered: … What if comments are pertinent to a malpractice case? Both Sermo and WebMD say they zealously protect physician anonymity from all third parties.
What if a treating physician called another physician in the room for an informal discussion session about a treatment, and was later sued for medical malpractice?
That conversation would be discoverable, since it’s relevant to proving the physician’s conduct relative to the standard of care and it’s not privileged (unlike, say, a post hoc Peer Review Committee).
Nothing about the message board changes that analysis. Would it make the responding physician liable? Probably not, as they’re not responsible for the patient’s care — but again, there’s no real need for a whole new method of analysis here. Just think of what the answer would be in the bricks & mortar world.