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Monday, March 17th 2008

Doctor Blogs Raise Concerns?

An NPR piece looks at physician blogs and quotes some who ask if stories about patients, even composite stories, are too close to giving away patients’ privacy.

Blogging can be a great marketing tool for raising a physician’s profile and attracting new patients, says health care marketing expert Fard Johnmar.

“Patients who see physicians who blog realize that these physicians understand implicitly that patients are hungry for information. By providing this information sometimes they will become much more trusted by patients because they believe that they are going to be much more responsive,” Johnmar says.

But not all physician blogs are geared toward marketing. In fact, just the opposite seems to be the case in some extremely candid blogs, like “White Coat Rants,” “Cancer Doc” and “M.D.O.D.,” which bills itself as “Random Thoughts from a Few Cantankerous American Physicians.” These are more like diaries in which doctors vent about reimbursement rates, difficult cases and what a “bummer” it is to have so many patients die.

Dr. Debra Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the group Patient Privacy Rights, thinks physician blogs often step too close to the limits of 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,” she says.

Physicians have been sharing case reports and stories about patients since the profession grew into itself. I don’t know why just because such are more visible with the emergence of blogs, that anyone imagines doctors can’t maintain the same ideals in this new medium as they do in more vouched methods of publication.