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Increased discussion and interaction amo …

In Blogging on Blogging on July 31, 2008 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

Increased professional discussion and interaction amongst healthcare professionals is a very positive result of the availability of blogging software and social networking venues. Naturally, there are possible ‘adverse effects’ of communication that is detailed, public and in which patients might be discussed, or products pushed. A recently-published paper in the Journal of General Internal Medicine by Lagu et al finds that violations of patient privacy and product endorsements are two undesirable byproducts of medical blogging.

Lagu et al state that most established medical bloggers make an effort to veil their own identity and protect patient privacy. It is rare for a blogger to violate a patient’s privacy outright–the more common ‘grey area’ is a blogger giving some details about where they work and what they do, so that they are identifiable to colleagues and the public. This could endanger a patient’s privacy (my own thinking is that someone could piece together some details of who the patient is or what condition(s) a known person has, especially if they know a bit about the healthcare professional and/or the patient).
Their outlook is positive and they believe that more established bloggers are setting a good path for newbies to follow.

“A voluntary movement by medical blog authors toward self-regulation regarding patient privacy, transparency, anonymity, and patient respect is taking shape.”

I wonder if, in the near future, we can expect the BMA (or the CMA, over the ocean) to set out guidelines on medical blogging? And what about the many other colleges and associations for nurses and specialists?

Lagu et al found that 31% of the 271 healthcare blogs identified contained 1 or more product endorsement. These are not adverts of the variety that move and flash (and can be easily removed by my browser)–no, they are often written into the blog. Any sensible blogger will realise that making paid promotions (which many of these are) completely compromises their credibilty, and in this case, the blogger’s professional reputation. The researchers could not actually tell if the endorsements were paid, or if they were just things the blogger found effective, as most blogs did not declare competing interests (and they should!).

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