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Chinese Medical Community Site: Interview with the Founder

Last week I presented DXY.cn, a Chinese medical community site that has over 1.4 million registered users. After that entry, Stanley Li (Li Tian Tian), the founder of DXY.cn, contacted me and kindly agreed to answer my questions.

  • Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your background? What was the intention behind launching DXY.cn in 2000?

I graduated from Harbin Medical University in 1999 and received my Bachelor degree of clinical medicine. I would like to do scientific research rather than being a resident, so I worked very hard for my Master degree from 1999 to 2002 in the department of tumor immunology in the same university. After that, I think I have been in love with bioinformatics, which combines biology and statistics together. So I went to Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) and TsingHua University to continue my PhD degree in 2004.

When I was doing scientific research in these years, I found academic articles were so important to us and very few people knew how to retrieve them in proper methods. One of my classmates was charged 8 Yuan (around one US dollar) to retrieve eight English abstracts in the library in 2000. So I decided to build a website to introduce PubMed at that time and the first name for this website was JianSuo.net, which means Retrieving in Chinese. The mission of JianSuo.net was introducing advanced search skills in PubMed or other academic search engines.

In 2003, we decided to make some changes because many Chinese physicians had already known how to do this. Then the new website was built and we named it as DXY.cn, which means Lilac Garden in Harbin Medical University. DXY.cn was designed not only for academic search engine introduction, but also for academic discussion, ideas exchange, case report, online seminars, etc. We don’t have any full time employees until 2006 and all management work was completed by over 400 volunteers from hospitals, universities, institutions in China or other countries.

  • How did you get so many members? Do you think it’s easier to get new sign ups in such a community site in China rather than in the US or Europe?

I think there are two reasons. First, we started very early and it was much easier to earn eyeballs. Second, I think we found a strong request in 2000, which was academic article retrieving and many physicians or researchers wanted to know this and DXY was the only one website for this at that time.

After 2003, we made a change because we have had introduced PubMed for over three years and PubMed had not so many advanced search skills to learn. But through PubMed learning, the most users gathered in DXY had background of medicine, life science and pharmaceutical science and it was much easier for us to change DXY into a professional forum and enlarge its effects in scientific research field.

China is very different with US or Europe. The best doctors are always working in public hospitals in big cities and there are very few GPs or private doctors before 2006. Most doctors will be very busy in the public hospitals and some doctors will have to face over 100 patients in one day. So I think it is not very easy to get new sign ups and in fact, we have been working for ten years to get 1.4 million clinical doctors, 300,000 bio-researchers and 300,000 pharma R&D scientists. There is no any short cut, but we have to keep working every day. This is a sort of winemaking procedure and we have to be very patient.

  • How can you manage the content? Is there any moderation?

Most content in DXY is UGC (User Generated Content) since DXY is an academic forum and case report is the most welcome. Case report would generate almost endless discussion since China has so many patients, especially some rare cases. Doctors would like to join discussion and learn from each other. Any DXY members can post their ideas on different boards. Each board usually has 3-5 moderators and some popular board, like cardiology, respiratory disease will have more. These moderators are from different hospitals and they are all volunteers. Their daily job is to manage content and maintain a good environment for academic exchange.

There is a supervisor committee above these 400 moderators and the job of this committee is to audit moderator’s behavior and select new candidates. Another job is to audit some advertisement in DXY to ensure commercial behavior will not hurt user experience or affect any academic freedom. The members in this committee are selected from moderators and all DXY full time employees must be excluded from this committee.

DXY has a set of score and vote system and a doctor will be given a score or a vote by his peers manually according to the quality of his discussion. The higher score or vote a doctor can acquire, the more benefits he will be given. DXY will help doctors with high scores to publish their own books in publishing house, or give them free registration in academic conference, and many other benefits.

  • How can you make sure only medical professionals register? Are there any governmental regulations related to the site?

First, our registration system will limit people only with medicine; life science or pharmaceutical science can be authorized to get in. Second, over 400 DXY moderators will tell which post is not from professionals and move it into recycle bin immediately. They even have their own stand-by system to work more efficiently. Third, DXY has blocked most search engine spiders to avoid public awareness. The information on DXY is very academic and professional and it is not suitable for public without any medical knowledge to read.

There are some governmental regulations to DXY and DXY has got all legal licenses from the government, such as MOH and SFDA. Online advertisement is also regulated, especially for Rx drugs. We have to put on record in Local SFDA before launch any online activities for pharmaceutical companies.

  • What are your plans for the near future, what will DXY look like in 5 years?

DXY has helped over 700 pharmaceutical companies, life science companies, and marketing survey companies to reach Chinese physicians and scientists in the past four years. We will provide more online services to our clients and users, such as good contents and applications in the following years.

Though DXY has re-organized its UGC contents and published 46 kinds of books, including one text book in the past six years, we still need more professional editors to re-organize and present them in better way. Content classification is also important. We need to classify different levels of content and provide them to different groups, such as junior doctors, senior doctors and GPs. Content is King and it will always be.

Web applications will also be necessary. DXY knows Chinese doctors’ workflow very well and we will develop some web applications to help them improve working efficiency. Forum is a good way for professional communications, but not enough. We are developing social network for Chinese doctors based on their own specialties, hobbies and geographic areas. This new network will combine forum, data center, e-commerce platform and Ad system together. By using data mining technology and user behavioral analysis, this network will provide content more precisely to the doctors only when they need it.

In the past five years, I have been to half provincial capitals in China and made over 50 lectures in hospitals and medical universities. Today, every Chinese doctor who can connect to Internet knows DXY. In the next five years, every Chinese doctor who can connect to Internet will use DXY as part of his daily work, because DXY will have been merged with Chinese doctor’s workflow at that time. DXY will also extend its business scope from computer to mobile phone since China has the largest mobile users in the world.

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