Sunday, August 27, 2006

Medical blogging -- what's your opinion?

It's time to overcome that summer lethargy and reclaim the work ethic! AJ and I are giving a presentation at the Medical Humanities Conference, hosted this year on 4 and 5 September by King's College London. We're talking about ... medical blogs. It seems sensible to sound out our esteemed readership by asking your opinions on the ethical issues facing medical bloggers. Is it fair that doctors can reveal nothing of their patients yet patients can say whatever they like about their doctors (as long as it's not libellous)? Should doctors be giving medical advice in their blogs? Are there any specific blogs you can recommend as being particularly good? We'd love to hear from you on these or any other issues pertaining to medical blogging.


Borneo Breezes said...

Wonderful that you are presenting about medical blogging. It feels like there is a lot more that we could be doing. I recently posted about the possibility of metablogs, although I am not sure that is what I mean or is needed. But I have so many medical friends that think it is only about journalling. Good luck.

Giskin said...

Thanks Borneo Breezes, your post on metablogging is very interesting (and relevant!).

woodstock said...

hey all. this is just my twocentsworth.

i guess that the standard ethical parameters that govern a doctor-patient relationship should continue, even in cyberspace, ai? firstly, a patient pays for the privilege of privacy among other things, and second, from the viewpoint of the profession, privacy is necessary for continued effective interaction between doctors and patients.

what's worrying is what HAPPENS if this privacy is breached online? how are we, unlike in the past, to track down the leak to its source, and the source to its parent blogger? all that a plaintiff will have is a username and a truckload of circumstantial evidence!

and ditto for a doctor if a patient goes sour online.

for the same reason, i think there's nothing that can be DONE about giving medical advice on a blog apart from awfully tedious censorship. i mean, the BNF is online. so who's to stop a patient from logging on and self-prescribing over-the-counter drugs?

so as long as a med blog is not ratified by a health agency, or all doctor-bloggers have to register themselves, theres no way we can either prevent, or at the oter extreme, certify, any information crossing over.

and since that will not be happen any sooner than the sun gets cold, is there anyhing else that might be done?

Oliver said...

It would be interesting to look at how the confidentiality issues in medical blogs compare with those in online counselling. There's a lot of online counselling offered by BACP counsellors but I don't know how they regulate it.

Giskin said...

Thanks, Woodstock and Oliver, for these thoughts. Any thoughts about the standards of confidentiality? Should doctors merely feel they can change the age and sex of patients they are talking about or should further steps be taken to preserve confidentiality? Or should bloggers have their patients consent to be written about? Can a doctor rely on using a pseudonym to protect his/her own identity?

woodstock said...

"Should doctors merely feel they can change the age and sex of patients they are talking about or should further steps be taken to preserve confidentiality?"

this is certainly possible. most medical-story correspondents to popular magazines (discover being one i read avidly) do this, and it seems legal. also, most CSI chapters, as well as many similar programmes, agree that change of 'NSL' (name-sex-location) is adequate.

"Can a doctor rely on using a pseudonym to protect his/her own identity?"

this question wont be related simply to doctors or medical students. anyone who discusses situations or people related to their profession will face this. lawyers even more than doctors. and since giving or withholding identity is a personal thing, the user should decide the degree of cover he or she needs. this means that changing NSL may help the doctor as well!

i mean, take any peer network. various levels of privacy in profiles. various things said or not said. the user decides their level of security.