So You Wanna...Learn More About Medical Blogs

Published: Thursday, Jan 01, 1970
If the AMA’s attention is any measure of importance, blogging has hit the physician mainstream. A January 15 feature in AMA Health News highlighted “Grand Rounds,” which is a weekly review of the best blog posts by healthcare bloggers across the blogosphere. Consumers are trying desperately to find more authoritative and less pharmaceutically biased health information, and blogging is

garnering some of this focus.

In 1999, Jacob Reider, a family physician and medical informatician, was the second physician to write regularly and post

publicly on the Internet. His writing highlighted technologies helpful to physicians in small practices, and commented on topics of interest to generalists (immunizations, guidelines).

In the years since 1999, a few dozen physicians have started their own blogs. Most have followed a diarist’s style—a personal journal that focuses on topics of interest to physicians like them. Bloggers generally stick to writing about issues within their specialty but make it more personal by including day-in-the-life details that give their writing a friendlier, more informal feel than a medical journal.

For example, Reider produced the first physician’s podcast, reviewing what he did in his day of practice. In early years, medical blogging was an insular community; bloggers read and commented on each other’s posts. In the last three years, when reviewing comments on medical blogs, you can see that the general public has discovered medblogs and are eager readers. Consumers see blogs as authentic, first-person testimonials regarding timely information on particular treatments, medications, and diseases.

Consumers can read blogs for distilled opinions and information, rather than rely on sites like PubMed, with their often incomprehensible (to consumers) clinical information. Consumers may even begin to stray from Google, unable to confi dently choose from an unqualified list of links to information of varying quality as they see nutraceutical (nutritional supplements for sale in health food stores) advertorial content encroach.

Consumers have fl ocked to more qualified content, such as the physicians answering questions at blogs like About.com’s Guides.

Such guides include Vincent Ianelli’s Pediatrician Guide, where his face is prominently displayed, and his physician credentials are “googleable” (see our upcoming May feature “Are You Googleable?” for more on this) for verifi cation. Others seek to pay physicians—such as Kevin Pho, Internist and popular medblogger of “Straight from the Doc”—specifically for private replies at sites like MedHelp and Yahoo! Answers.

Sites like WebMD, Yahoo! Health, Revolution Health, and Medscape have attempted to attract readers by hiring celebrities, physicians, and nurses as bloggers, with questionable success. They’ve failed to provide stylish writing and technologies that allow readers to continue the conversation. Readers want short, witty blog postings combined with an open community that enables them to comment on the site’s content, rate that content, write about it on their own blogs, and e-mail content to friends. They want

to see authoritative content, as well as the user-generated commentary surrounding the topic.

Consider the popularity of Howard Dean’s blog that drew thousands of commenters a day to his presidential candidacy forum four years ago. Political controversy drove involvement. Consider the popularity of social networking sites like MySpace, Digg, and Yelp, where readers can review the products.

Learn the Basics

Visit one of these blog services. They’ll explain how you can set up your blog—usually at no cost—customize it, and get started.

Blogger

TypePad

WordPress

Blogging Tools

This page offers more than 100 links to sites that enable users to set up a blog or add functionality to an existing blog.

The Health Care Blogging Summit - April 30, 2007

Part of the Consumer Directed Healthcare Conference

Las Vegas, NV


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