June 13, 2007

Technophile MD builds doctors-only Web site: relaxdoc.com

A cancer specialist has launched a MySpace-styled Web site where doctors can commiserate, swap treatment ideas or buy and sell medical equipment.

Think of it as Dr Myo Thant's physician-only prescription for burnout and exhaustion.

"The computer has been almost like a stress reliever for me," said Thant, 59.

He launched RelaxDoc.com early last month to give busy doctors an online home where they can decompress while socializing with peers, reading news, blogging or planning vacations.

"We help doctors find that elusive balance between work and life after work," said the Baltimore oncologist.

With the site, Thant is giving his peers a dose of his own medicine.

Early in his nearly three-decade career, Thant got a computer programming degree to help blow off steam. That led to designing the "Life and Death" and "Virtual Surgeon" video games, which are among the first titles to put players in doctors' shoes.

"RelaxDoc.com is like MySpace meets Craigslist," Thant said, referring to the popular teen hang-out site and the Web site Craigslist.org, where people buy and sell and find jobs and relationships.

RelaxDoc.com is exclusively for doctors, who pay no fees to use the site. It also provides free online access to medical databases DynaMed and MedLinePlus.

Thant is funding the project out of pocket and said he plans to eventually add advertising to cover the cost. His main goal is to keep doctors from leaving much-needed specialties like oncology, which are facing dire shortages in the coming years.

Ophthalmologist Amy Zimmerman is a fan of Web auction site eBay Inc., where dealers are selling most of the work-related items she needs, and was initially intrigued by RelaxDoc's classified ads.

"It would be great to eliminate the middle man," she said.

She unexpectedly got hooked by the site's blogs -- and for the first time added her voice to an online discussion.

"You feel like you're not going to get lambasted by a bunch of patients," said Zimmerman.

Dr. Delia Chiaramonte left the stress and hectic pace of a medical practice to found Insight Medical Consultants, where she now spends time reviewing the histories of very ill patients and helps them get treatment.

"I love the idea of a community of physicians," she said. "Physicians are very isolated. Someone is acknowledging that physicians have needs."

She also sees a potential public health benefit to getting thousands of doctors from around the country talking: "I think it's a great alert system."

Beyond that, though, Chiaramonte is just impressed that Thant actually launched the site, which targets an obvious need.

"They're not early adopters, doctors," she said. "He actually did something."

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