Dmitriy Kruglyak, who publishes the Medical Blog Network, weighed in on the debate about the usefulness of physician blogs. He said:
“No doubt, blogging is not for every doctor and this practice is still nascent. But smart docs who care about their reputation will turn it to their benefit and get on the bandwagon early.”
Bloomberg and Kruglyak are correct. Blogs are an important communications medium. Physicians would do well to pay attention to blogs and think about whether (and how) they should join the healthcare blogosphere.
However, despite the enthusiasm of a few “early adopters” the majority of healthcare executives, physicians and others view blogs with skepticism and fear. (See this post from the Healthcare Information Systems Blog for more on this topic.) This is unfortunate. More people should be taking healthcare blogging seriously because the future is now. (See below for a few examples of how blogs are impacting healthcare.)
Healthcare Blogs and the Provider-Patient Relationship
In July 2005, Harris Interactive released a poll indicating that 117 million Americans have turned to the Internet for healthcare information. According to Harris Interactive:
“The percentage of cyberchondriacs who search sometimes or often appears to also be on the rise. Most adults who have ever looked for health information online have been generally successful in finding what they are looking for and believe the information to be at least somewhat reliable. Furthermore, many of these people use this information in their discussions with their doctors or use the Internet to help augment the information that doctors provide them (emphasis mine).”
Think about this for a moment. This poll suggests that online health information is having a profound influence on the healthcare provider-patient relationship. This means that people may already be using information posted by healthcare providers, experts, patients and others on blogs in conversations with their physicians.
The graphic to the right illustrates this point.
It shows how patient-, provider- and healthcare expert-generated content becomes part of the available pool of health information. Providers and patients use this content to enhance and enrich their interactions with each other.
Healthcare blogs are already affecting healthcare-related communications activities, including market research. Nielsen BuzzMetrics, an Internet monitoring firm, reports that 14 of the world's top 15 pharmaceutical companies are already using its services to track “buzz” about their products on blogs and other consumer-generated content. As the healthcare blogosphere expands, its influence will only increase.
Coming Soon: A New Healthcare Blogging Information Source
I am currently completing the first comprehensive report on blogs and healthcare. The report is titled “The Emerging Healthcare Blogosphere: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?” Readers of the report will learn:
- Who is blogging about healthcare and why they are doing it
- How healthcare blogs may affect the provider-patient relationship, market research and medical treatment practices
- Why pharmaceutical companies, medical device makers and other healthcare organizations have been slow to embrace blogging and why their fears may be misplaced
- The benefits of blogs for healthcare non-profits
-How to learn about and track the healthcare blogosphere
- Why seven of the world’s most prominent bloggers, including Steve Rubel, B.L. Ochman and Robert French, think healthcare blogs are important
The report will be available for purchase in a few weeks. I will announce its availability here. In the meantime, please contact me (info AT envisionsolutionsnow DOT com) with any questions about the report.
(Update: The report was published in April. Click here to learn more about it.)