NPR: Doctor Blogs Raise Concerns About Patient Privacy

A NPR story discusses if Doctor Blogs Raise Concerns About Patient Privacy (4 min 49 sec).

Dr. Debra Peel, a psychiatrist and founder of the group Patient Privacy Rights, is unhappy with doctors "venting" their frustration on personal blogs:

"If you are unhappy with the people that you're supposed to be serving and taking care of, you probably need therapy," she says. "You don't need to be venting your frustrations in a public manner like that. That's very inappropriate and unprofessional."

These are strong words. A few members of the profession have made a "blogging career" out of sharing their frustration with the current status of our health system. This is not limited to the U.S., NHS Blog Doctor, for example, is very critical of the government-sponsored health system in the U.K.

One should take into account not only protecting confidentiality and professional behavior but also freedom of speech.

There are some simple rules to observe when blogging, in addition to using common sense. The top and foremost is not to publish any of the 18 HIPAA identifiers when writing about patients. Some doctor bloggers take this rule to an extreme and do not to write about patients at all.

Tips for medical bloggers

- Write as if your boss and your patients are reading your blog every day
- Comply with HIPAA
- Do not blog anonymously. List your name and contact information.
- If your blog is work-related, it is probably better to let your employer know.
- Inquire if there are any blogging guidelines. If there are, comply with them strictly.
- Use a disclaimer, e.g. " All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice."
- Get your blog accredited by the Heath on the Net Foundation

Dr. Wes offers more detailed advice on Keeping Pace With a Blog in EP Lab Digest. Note: GruntDoc disagrees with the advice not to blog anonymously (see his comment here).

References:
Doctor Blogs Raise Concerns About Patient Privacy. NPR.
Simply Fired - How NOT to Blog About Your Job. Especially If You Are a Doctor. Clinical Cases and Images - Blog, 08/2005.
How to write a medical blog and not get fired?
Anonymous Medical Blogger? Not Anymore. Clinical Cases and Images - Blog, 02/2007.
Can You Trust Blogs? 10 Questions for Medical Bloggers
Case Reports and HIPAA Rules
Image source: Wikipedia

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