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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Why doctors blog   (March 29, 2008)

I just read an interesting article, Doctor Blogs Raise Concerns About Patient Privacy.

Seems that there are an estimated 120,000 health care blogs. Of course, some worrywarts worry about whether these blogs invade patient privacy: "The problem with physicians blogging about patients is the danger that that person will be able to identify themselves, or that others that know them will be able to identify them." I disagree, as does another physician: "You might say we as doctors should never be talking about experiences with our patients online or in books or in articles."

Why do doctors write on the Internet? It sure isn't to anger our patients, nor to risk lawsuits or Federal fines. I can think of several reasons for doctors to expose their thinking on the Internet, and will describe them and provide examples.

Marketing pieces: Many websites allow physicians to enter information into forms, and generate a webpage that provides name, office hours, location(s), professional interests, and other information. Frequently these webpages can be identified by their cookie-cutter appearance, and if you look at the URL, you'll see some clues that it's not an independent website authored by the physician: you'll see some interesting company name, like (I made that up), and then the doctor's name: These marketing pages can be helpful, if the physician accurately enters information, and if he/she keeps them up to date. You should try Googling your physician, and see if he/she has a webpage somewhere.

Diaries: Some blogs are simply a chance for the physician to describe what's going on in his/her professional or personal life. These blogs are really no different from blogs written by attorneys, preachers, schoolteachers, retirees, or proud parents. I've done this myself: see, for instance, my posting Time For A Pump?

Advice: Some blogs are similar to standard webpages, and provide medical advice in a casual format. It's an excellent way for a physician to share wisdom with the wider world, compared to the fairly limited audience seen by the physician in a typical private practice. An example I've written years ago, and have placed on the Internet: Your traveling medical record.

Rants: A rant is a distinctive phenomenon of emotional speech or writing, usually consisting of complaints or attacks, sometimes in a political nature. Physicians, like everyone else, get frustrated and upset with politics, bureaucracy, insurance and governmental intrusions. And rather than sharing with colleagues in the hospital physicians' lounge, we can now share with the world! An example:  Media hype (again).

Reviews: Physicians are experts, and as such, can help clarify the utility of medical devices and gadgets. See my review, Sharps Transport & Disposal [Sorry; no longer on-line as of February 2012].

Entertainment: You might not think of your physician as a stand-up comic, but a touch of humor helps everyone. (Well, almost everyone. Some people have no sense of humor.) See The power of observation...

So, there are lots of reasons why doctors write blogs. By the way, if you're into reading blogs, and stumble across one written by a physician, please add a comment below telling us about it!
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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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