Last two weeks medblogosphere was abuzz about the closing of GeekNurse. Apparently some over-zealous hospital managers could not stand an employee's public persona and growing following.
This brings up a few questions:
- What is wrong with medical blogging?
- What can doom a blog or make it sustainable?
- Role of blogging in medical professional's public identity
- When problems occur, who is responsible?
- What is the way going forward?
I like the approach taken by Darren Rowse to examine weaknesses of blogging in general, invoking example of a religious debate where opposing sides were asked to find flaws in their own argument:
The result was fascinating - rather that the two groups coming away with reinforced hatred of and anger towards the other the event was incredibly constructive. Both groups found that they learned not only a lot about the other group - but about their own perspective.
So let me offer a few thoughts of my own on the questions asked above:
1) What is wrong with medical blogging:
Medical blogging is still a very new phenomenon. A key challenge it poses is in giving power to individuals at the expense of institutions. While similar movements have been around for a while in politics, media and technology, this is a shock for healthcare organizations, generally more sensitive to being questioned.
2) What can doom a blog or make it sustainable:
Being unclear about a blog's purpose and its relation to your public identity cannot do any good. Whatever you see as the main motivation, be sure you allocate enough time to achieve the goal. A good rule of thumb: if you do not want something printed on the front page of your hometown paper, do not blog it!
3) Role of blogging in medical professional's public identity
Many will disagree with me here, but I am all for embracing full blogger identity disclosure. This may be harder for professionals employed by institutions (see Item #1), than for those in private practice, but the bottom line is: total anonymity is a pipe dream. Why not embrace your online identity as integral part of who you are?
4) When problems occur, who is responsible?
Do not write or do something unless you are willing to stand behind it when questioned. Same goes for pointing fingers in the direction of others when controversies occur. Bloggers lose credibility by "shoot-now-think-later" attitude. If you want to be snarky, stay anonymous but do not expect to earn much trust.
5) What is the way going forward?
Medical blogging is here to stay and grow. Bad PR from firing bloggers is terrible. Institutions will learn to live with being publically questioned and will eventually embrace blogging. But bloggers need to develop a "code of honor" to keep the discourse civil. There will be some turbulence on the way there, but it shall pass too.
So if you are interested in drawing up "the code" drop me a note or leave a comment. Professional journalists have done something like that long ago. There are a couple of ethics standards for health-related websites. Medical blogs should be next to professionalize.
What else is missing in this picture? What else about medical blogging that needs fixing?