Blogging is a great way for doctors to connect with their patients and potential patients as well as establish themselves as a leader in their fields. However, blogging for doctors carries its own unique set of potential pitfalls. Here's what to look out for.
1. Be mindful of privacy laws. It can be tempting to offer examples when writing about a condition or a medical procedure in your blog. However, be aware that even if you don't identify your patient by name, the nature of the condition or its circumstances could give readers a clue to his or her identity. Best to err on the side of caution.
2. Be careful about giving specific medical advice. If you write about medical conditions and diseases, you're likely to get unsolicited emails and comments in your blog asking you to give advice about their specific symptoms. However, even if you use generic and qualifying terms, you could be on slippery ground talking to a patient whom you haven't examined.
3. Monitor comments closely. If your blog allows comments, readers are bound to write about their personal experiences with a disease or condition. Many of these comments will be useful and give patients suffering from a particular disease the sense that they aren't alone in their struggle. However, you'll need to keep a close eye on such comments for reader advice that is just plain wrong or, worse, dangerous. For example, the herbal remedy a reader suggests could be toxic if combined with several common medications. You don't want your readers thinking you tacitly endorsed such a remedy.
Blogging for doctors can take a lot of the cold and impersonal feel away and make those in the medical field seem more accessible to patients. However, before you write your first post, be sure to set strict guidelines for you and your staff to keep you from inadvertently getting into trouble.