BloggerCon: Weblogs and Medicine

Published: 10/05/03

Weblogs and Medicine
Moderated by Jacob Reider
BloggerCon
October 5, 2003

Jacob Reider is a part-time family practitioner and teaches at Albany Medical College. He claims to be the second medical Weblogger and said that the first medical Weblogger doesn’t blog regularly anymore. His blog is Docnotes.

He began the session by having the audience introduce themselves and say why they’re attending the session. Details about the session, including a list of attendees, is available on Enoch Choi’s blog medmusings. (His blog, by the way, looks really funky in my Netscape because none of the sidebars show up, so there’s no navigation. Just whatever’s on the front page.)

Then, we began talking about some of the issues related to blogging in the medical community. Confidentiality is a big issue. We talked about how the blogging doctors decide what information about a patient and/or his/her condition he can put on his blog and what issues he can discuss. When one blogger decides he wants to blog something about a patient, he asks for their permission, has them sign a release form, and consults with them on what he posts. He also said that he waits a while before blogging about someone and tries to use very little identifying information. Although doctors have legal obligations releated to patient confidentiality they must keep in mind when it comes to blogging about their patients, many of the issues they consider while deciding whether and how to blog about someone are very similar to what many bloggers think about.

Audience is another factor. When doctors know that they are writing for doctors and other members of the medical community, they might have slightly more freedom and can write more specifically for their audience. If members of the general public read their blog, they might be able to help them with certain medical issues, but the bloggers have to be wary about giving medical advice over the Web. One blogger said he has a disclaimer on his site cautioning people about using material on his site.

An audience member interested in blogging in the medical community wondered about the possibilities of having a closed group of blogs only for medical professionals. He seems to think that an area where practitioners could write and read in an environment that only includes other professionals could be beneficial to that group of bloggers and blog readers.

Someone asked about whether blogs influence patient/doctor interactions. Jacob said that he tries not to put his personal opinion about some subjects, especially controversial topics like abortion, on his blog because he knows some of his patients read his writing and he doesn’t want them to be influenced by his personal thoughts. He used the example of diabetes to explain how his thoughts on an issue might prevent a patient from speaking honestly with him about a medical condition. Using another blogger as an example, he said if she wrote about how frustrated she feels that a certain patient with diabetes doesn’t change her diet or exercise more, he opined that the patient may not be as honest with the doctor during her next checkup.

I wonder whether a patient would choose to change doctors after reading opposite or discouraging views on his blog. I ponder, too, whether some patients might fear talking with a blogging doctor about their health if they fear it might appear on his blog, especially if they read about other patients on the blog, but don’t know how the doctor decides to include information about his patients on his blog.

The medical session’s Webcast (.ram) has been archived on Tales of Hoffman.