Should physician blogs be held to a higher standard?

This new study suggests yes:

“The blogging community has made an effort to set standards for medical bloggers, but unfortunately, professional organizations and medical educators haven’t come out with rules for handling the new medium . . . Medical blogs are a great opportunity to learn about the health care system, but they need to know some bloggers have unprofessional conduct, although that doesn’t represent the medical profession as a whole. The issue is the risk of losing patient trust. We want to maintain that.”

I’m glad that physician blogs are inching their way into the medical literature. Good to see them finally join the party. Better late than never my friends.

Two issues seem to be of concern: blogging about patients and product endorsement.

I agree that physician blogs that write about patients do need to be held to a higher than normal blog standard. Mainstream media and the academic medical community is just starting the grasp the power of medical blogging, and doesn’t quite know what to make of it.

It seems that medical blogging’s greatest strength – giving an unfettered view “behind the scenes” of medicine – is its biggest controversy. I simply choose to stay away from this by not writing about patients, but I am aware that the most interesting medical blogs are those that speak freeing about patient encounters.

Regarding advertising, it’s commonplace on blogs. Should physician blogs be required to disclose conflicts of interest? Should blogs be held to the same standard as medical journals?

I say no. It’s just a blog, lighten up. But for those who care about such things, my policy regarding product endorsements has always been contained in my disclaimer, written in no uncertain terms:

THE INCLUSION OF THIRD PARTY ADVERTISEMENTS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN ENDORSEMENT, GUARANTEE, WARRANTY, OR RECOMMENDATION OF, AND THE AUTHOR MAKES NO REPRESENTATIONS AND/OR WARRANTIES ABOUT, ANY PRODUCT OR SERVICE CONTAINED THEREIN.

There you have it.

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  • Doc99

    And whatever you do, don’t blog about an active med mal case in which you are a defendant.

  • Anonymous

    Frustration, exhaustion, despair and many other emotions which are a “peek” behind the scenes can be done without the use of foul language.

    We all use it in real life. No one disputes that. It just does nothing to retain our respect when we use it in a medical blog that patients can read.

  • Frank Drackman

    So this is Russia now? This isn’t Russia, not until January 20th 2009 anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Just because something is legal and should remain so doesn’t mean one should do it. Plenty of blog topics that aren’t libelous, legally risky, illegal, or unethical, are just plain cheesy, tasteless, tacky, and bring disrepute on the medical profession when on a physician’s blog. The profession has only as much dignity as it’s members words and actions lend it. That dignity matters to patients who often find themselves in the hands of a doctor about whom they know nothing other than that he is a member of this profession–whether he is cooperative and confident or seized with mortal terror is dependent on his prexisting impression of the profession in general.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that physician blogs should be held to a higher standard. I for one am tired of reading the same old, “Can you believe what this patient said today?” trash. Honestly, who cares? Maybe the customer service reps should blog about their “worst cases,” or the hair stylists should blog about their least favorite clients. How interesting would that be.

    A sage once said blogs are like Seinfeld without the humor, which is to say that they are about nothing and they’re not even funny to make up for it. I think that’s pretty much on target, even for medical blogs.

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