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Medical blogging, a new horizon or a dangerous cliff

Medical blogging, a new horizon or a dangerous cliff

Medical blogging can be viewed as a blessing to the health field or a curse on doctors and patients who can receive false info. or accidentally discover that their confidentiality was disclosed. This blog attemtps at weighing the pros and cons of medical blogging

Medical blogging is blogging in the field of medicine. It is a relatively recent addition to the medical field. While its closest predecessor medical journalism; is about 300 years old, medical blogging is currently about a decade old. This blogpost aims at exploring the field of medical blogging and comparing it to related disciplines when relevant. It examines some opinions of bloggers, and reviews some medical blogs aiming to infer reasons for blogging, derive technique or outline of blog and hopefully arriving at a conclusion to the future prospects of medical blogging.

Medicine is the practice of the art and science of healing 'ars medicina'. It is a branch of applied science, which started probably in the pre-historic era. The practice continued to flourish, specialise, sub-specialise and sub-sub-specialise. The word blog is most probably derived from the contraction of the words 'web log' which is a form of website that is more interactive, allowing comments, tagging,and is displayed in counter-chronological order from the most recent at the top of the page. The term 'blog' is currently used as a noun as well as a verb.

The aggregation of blogs is named 'blogosphere', and the blog writer is named 'blogger'. There are single author blogs and multi-author blogs, they are as diverse in there content as the diversity of the bloggers, with regards to form they can be written text, images, videos, sounds or combination of more than one medium. The term 'blogroll' is referred to blogs followed by a person. Blogging is just more than a decade old now. However, the number of blogs have been increasing exponentially at times. The concept of blogging is considered as one of the components of the concept of web 2.0. Medical blogs refers to blogs that are primarily concerned with medical/health subjects. The name 'medical blog' is derived from content based taxonomic classification.

Medical blogs can be classified by author, there are blogs by physicians, nurses, patients, medical institutions, medical journals, and anonymous blogs. They can be classified by target audience as either to other doctors, patients and carers, general public or a combination of more than one target. There are also medical blogs by patients or patient blogs that expresses their viewpoints. A study examined medical student blogs and concluded that they might be beneficial for students to reflect on their experience (Pinilla et al, 2013). The Nephrology Dialysis and Transplantation (NDT) made it own blog (El Nahas, 2012). The American Journal of Kidney Disorder (AJKD) made its own official blog (Desai et al, 2013). During the same year, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association launched their official blog (Sanossian & Merino, 2013). Pereira discussed the blogs by neurosurgeons (Pereira et al, 2012).

In the BMJ doc2doc blogs, they do not have to meet certain number of word count but will have to be reviewed prior to publication. KevinMD requires blog posts to be of maximum five hundred words, Medical-Reference require a minimum of one thousand words. Meducation requires a blog post to vary between 1500-3000 word. Independent blogs may show more variation in the number of words per blog post. Some blogs are predominantly in text format, other may combine multimedia or get linked to other medical blogs. The BMJ doc2doc tentatively recommends blog posting to be in the frequency of one to two blogs/month. Chrislyn Pepper, a medical blog writer, (2013) states that medical blogging can aim to be 'three blogs of 300+ words each week and three to four short blogs of less than a hundred words five days per week.'

Medical bloggers seem to have various reasons to blog, some communicate clinical data to fellow doctors, in this case some blogs seem to resemble research or review articles in content and language which can contain medical jargon. There are diagnosis blogs that were studied by Miller and Pole (2010). The comparison between the electronic predecessors of blogging including Electronic Bulletin Board, USENET, and emailing in addition to the why of blogging in general has been discussed by Mongkolwat (Mongkolwat et al, 2005). Some put their hypotheses forward, others share clinical experience or discuss a clinical matter.

Some bloggers direct their attention to the general public providing information about medical topics. Some discuss issues which can be difficult to be put in research topics. Dr Rob discussed that importance of medical blogging as an equivalent to the concept of democracy in an online world. Doctor Blogger website offers 10 reasons for medical blogging including public education, correction of misconceptions and establishing a name. For the medical blogger's direct benefit Medical Rant blog offers an overview of personal benefits from medical blogging including stimulation of thought and stimulation of academic writing. Dr Wible seems to use her medical blog to promote a standard of care that seems to be a mix between the medical model and the befriending model of care. Another study examined the young adults blogging and concluded that powerlessness, loneliness, alienation, and lack of connection with others, where the primary outcomes of young adults as a result of mental health concerns (Eysenbach et al, 2012). Wolinsky (2011) enquires whether scientists should stick to popularizing science or more.

Medical blogs are essentially online activity which renders them immediately accessible to any area with internet connection, they are paperless by definition which makes them more environment friendly. The medical blogs are open access by default which adds to the accessibility, and they are decentralised which decreases control over the control and seems to accentuate diversity.

As compared to peer reviewed journals, medical blogs seem to be less referenced, are hardly ever taken as academic writing, the process of peer reviewed medical blogs is minimal if any, and they do not get reflected on resume or be considered as publication, though the term 'blogfolio' started to become a watch word. It seems hard to base clinical decisions on medical blogs. However, medical blogs can offer more diversity into research and non-research medical topics. They are published online with no delay or review time, they can comment on the most recent advances in the medical field or most contemporary issues instantaneously. Very recently, citing blogs seems to become a bit accepted. BMJ Journals have their dedicated blogs Some online resources give a comprehensive outline on blogging in general and medical blogging in particular including video interview with a medical blogger Michelle Guilemard in her blog makes a valid point of how medical blogging can enhance career. Medical Squid also highlighted medical blogging as a career Kovic et al (2008) conducted a research on the medical blogosphere an concluded that 'Medical bloggers are highly educated and devoted blog writers, faithful to their sources and readers'. Miller & Pole (2010) concluded that 'Blogs are an integral part of this next stage in the development '. Stanwell-Smith (2013) discussed the aspect as an important tool to communicate with patients. Another blog compared medical peer reviewed journals and their impact factor and concluded that medical blogs are more viewed and have much higher equivalent of the impact factor. The author concludes that may be journal have to be blog-like (blogoid if the term applies), or that medical blogs can be part of the scientific resume.

The blur between academia and blogging was discussed in research blogs. (Sheema et al, 2012). During the same another study discussed the impact of blogging on research (Fausto et al, 2012).

While Baerlocher & Detsky (2008) warn in an article against the hazards of medical blogging due to potential breach of confidentiality. After an exhaustive study of the content of weblog written by health professional, Lagu reached the concern of breaching of confidentiality (Lagu et al, 2007). Rebecca Golden (2007) cites the perils of medical blogging she concludes her article saying 'Science has a peer-review process for a reason'. Brendan Koerner (2007) in wired magazines posted an article about the problems of giving medical advice via blogging. Dr Val Jones makes a point by concluding that social media provide the 'allure of influence'. Thomas Robey (2008) offers arguments for and against medical blogging, including confidentiality, and ruining personal reputation on the negative side, while enhancing democratization of conversation and having a creative outlet on the positive side. Brendel offers an intriguing discussion to whether it would be ethical or not to monitor patients' blog to determine their health status (Brendel, 2012).

O'Reilly voiced in 2007 the need for blogging code of conduct. The GMC published guidance on the use of social media by doctors and it included blogging as a form of social media. The Royal College of General Practitioners also published the social media high way code to offer guidance on social media including medical blogging. There is also the medblog oath online.

Flaherty (2013) argues that blogging is under attack by micro-blogging, and that it is in its deathbed. Mike Myatt in his article Is Blogging Dead, discusses various views about blogging in an era of micro-blogging The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently introduced a number of blogs including the president's blog, overseas blogs and other blogs. The medical blogging seems to occupy a middle space between the quick micro-blogging and the thoughtful research article. Its diversity and freedom are its strongest tools and can have the potential to be its worst enemies. One wonders whether the emergence of guidelines for medical blogging – given the seriousness of the content – would save medical blogging and elevate it to the next level or change the essence of it. After all, the question is how much the medical field which is a top-down hierarchy accept grass-root movement. Freedom of expression is probably at the heart of blogging. It would be logistically impossible to impose rules on it. However, guidelines and code of honour may help delineating the quality of medical blogs from each other.

 

Disclaimer the original blog post was published on BMJ doc2doc blogs

http://doc2doc.bmj.com/blogs/medicalbytes/_medical-blogging-overview-pearl-peril

 

Bibliography & Blogiography

01. Brendel, D. Monitoring Blogs: A New Dilemma for Psychiatrists Journal of Ethics, American Medical Association, 2012, Vol. 14(6), pp. 441-444
02. Desai, T., S.M.A.N.V.S.K.T.J.K.C.K.B.E.J.K.D. The State of the Blog: The First Year of eAJKD Am J Kidney Dis., 2013, Vol. 61(1), pp. 1-2
03. El Nahas, M. An NDT blog Nephrol Dial Transplant (2012) 27: 3377–3378, 2012, Vol. 27, pp. 3377-3378
04. Eysenbach, G., B.K.M.M. What Are Young Adults Saying About Mental Health? An Analysis of Internet Blogs Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2012, Vol. 14(1)
05. Fausto, S. Machado, F.B.L.I.A.N.T.M.D. Research Blogging: Indexing and Registering the Change in Science 2.0 PLoS one, 2012, Vol. 7(12), pp. 1-10
06. Lagu, T, K.E.J.D.A.A.A.K. Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals J Gen Intern Med, 2008, Vol. 23(10), pp. 1642–6
07. Miller, EA., P.A. Diagnosis Blog: Checking Up on Health Blogs in the Blogosphere American Journal of Public Health, 2010, Vol. 8, pp. 1514-1518
08. Mongkolwat, P. Kogan, A.K.J.C.D. Blogging Your PACS Journal of Digital Imaging, 2005, Vol. 18(4), pp. 326-332
09. Pereira, JLB., K.P. d.A.L. d.C.G. d.S.A. Blogs for neurosurgeons Surgical Neurology International, 2012, Vol. 3:62
10. Pinilla, S. Weckbach, L.A.S.B.H.N.D.S.K.T.S. Blogging Medical Students: A Qualitative Analysis
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