Blogs

August 8, 2008

Some physician and nurse bloggers go too far, violating the principle of patient confidentiality in an attempt to give readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the medical profession, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reports.

Some physician and nurse bloggers go too far, violating the principle of patient confidentiality in an attempt to give readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the medical profession, a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reports.

Of the 271 blogs the study examined, 42 percent described individual patients. Nearly 17 percent contained enough information for patients to identify their doctors or themselves.

“Health professionals who share private thoughts in public settings risk revealing confidential patient information or reflecting poorly on the profession,” according to the study, “Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals.”

Nearly 16 percent of the blogs described patients in a positive light, while 18 percent spoke negatively about patients, according to the study. Three blogs showed “recognizable” photos of patients, while another provided an “extensive description” and links to pictures of a patient, according to the study.

The study lists three examples of “negative” comments, and notes that several blogs contained entries that were “more insulting” to patients than the examples listed in the study.

“She was a stupid, lazy, selfish woman, all of which characteristics are personal problems, not medical issues or barriers to care,” the study quotes the blog “Panda Bear MD” as saying.

The “Panda Bear MD” blog has been discontinued, so its author was not available for comment.

More than three-quarters of the blogs surveyed were written by physicians, while nurses authored nearly all the rest.

The study reserves some kind words for medical blogs, noting that they “provide a new rout for communicating substantial, evidence-based health information to the public.”

The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania.