Does openness create needs for closedness? The example of,, The “online doctor” websites come in several different languages and are open to all. A social network called is a different version of a forum for discussing medical issues and seeking expert help. As reads it is however only open to doctors.

At people can read static pages on lots of different medical conditions. They can test themselves (calculate their Body Mass Index, find out if they are depressed etc.), join discussions and share problems and experiences with other users in a debate forum. Entering into an online and publicly open dialogue with doctors is however not an option. There is a “question-answer” function (advice column style), where the doctor answers letters from the users, but this is as far as I can see the only interaction between doctor and user. Also, you never see interaction between doctors.

The fact that doctors do not debate openly on a site like is probably a good thing. Displaying their disagreement and sometime the lack of knowledge we still have of many medical conditions, would only cause worries with the patients. But doctors do have disagreements and a need to consult with each other. Apparently just not in the open.

Doctors only is a new Danish initiative that fulfills the need for a closed forum for doctors to discuss. It is a social network exclusively open for authorised doctors in Scandinavia. The objective is to create a place where doctors can “meet and together develop their discipline”. The network offers news, debates etc. according to the individual doctor’s interest. Or as phrased on their password protected website:

“Share your knowledge within your area of expertise or take part in the debate with equals about medical, professional or political topics – it is up to you.”

In addition, DoctorsOnly offers tools for staying in contact with former colleagues and finding experts as needed. It is possible to create smaller circles within the network – eg. a small research group, an ‘alumni’ for an old classmates or colleagues. These networks can be open to all members on DoctorsOnly or exclusive to selected people.

According to the founder, Anders Søgaard, the fact that the network is exclusive is essential:

“We want to create a community where physicians can ask questions and discuss relevant issues. If you want a trusting, professional dialogue, then it is very important that there is a guarantee that only doctors are present.” [read full quote in Danish here]

Netdoktor and DoctorsOnly

A reason to mention in relation DoctorsOnly is that they have established a collaboration, where users of DoctorsOnly can help the readers of Netdoktor get answers to the medically founded questions, which can sometimes be difficult to assign to a diagnosis. But given a closed space the doctors can discuss freely with each other before passing on their conclusion to the patient, says community manager at DoctorsOnly, Morten Svenning Nielsen.

“All doctors have a Sherlock Holmes in them, and it is this inner detective which is unfolded when you help each other determine the diagnosis for a patient who has not been able to get help.”

More openness creates needs for more closed circles

At a time where social media plays a stronger and stronger role and lots of discussions takes place online, I find it interesting that this trend also provokes needs for closed forums and smaller circles were you can discuss. In many ways it is a very natural reaction, but yet interesting to see how more openness creates needs for more closedness at the same time. I guess Google+ and its structure of circles is symptom of a similar trend. We don’t need to share everything with everyone.

Almost everything on is login and password protected. It is however possible to get a peak into what goes on in the closed network, via DoctorsOnly’s open Facebook and LinkedIn pages and on Twitter, where debate questions and medical challenges for doctors are presented. It is however only a teaser since you need login and password to to read the actually discussion.

A British concept

The inspiration for comes from the British which is the largest professional network for doctors in the UK, established 12 year ago. It is available to registered doctors in primary and secondary care and is a secure service offering a professional e-mail facility, clinical and non-clinical forums, the very latest medical news and free accredited education.


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