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Blogs Versus Social Networks: Which Online Tools Will Capture Healthcare Providers’ Eyeballs?
Last week I participated in an interview with Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD, founder of the popular blog carnival Grand Rounds.  Genes has been a major force in medical blogging for many years now and asked me whether more physicians will start blogs in the future.  This is a good question.  We’ve seen blogging take off in other industries, but to date it appears (at least from anecdotal evidence) that physicians and other medical professionals have been slow to take up blogging in significant numbers.  

It is clear that certain types of physicians (especially the ones who like to write and can do so quickly) have really embraced blogging.  However, I think that the time commitment required to maintain a blog may be a big turn off for many.  In the recently released Envision Solutions/The Medical Blog Network survey of healthcare bloggers, 44% of physicians and 46% of nurses/nurse practitioners report that they spend between one and two hours on their blog per day (see chart to the right).  That’s a significant amount of time to devote to one activity, especially for busy healthcare providers.  

Will Social Networks Attract More Eyeballs?

Given the amount of time required to maintain a successful blog, I wouldn’t be surprised if healthcare providers itching for online interaction turn to social networks.  Their main attraction is the level of community they foster.  Blogs certainly have a communal aspect, but it is largely a solitary activity (with the exception of responding and receiving comments).  Social networks, especially the ones that host vibrant bulletin boards take much less time to follow and enable people to quickly post and respond to commentary.  Because of this, I think that social networks will ultimately become more popular with providers.  

One good example of this is Sermo, which has attracted thousands of physicians since its launch last year.  Another social network I just learned about, which seems to have a vibrant medical community, is Healtheva.  The site, which launched in 2006, is “a social networking platform for translational medicine that allows basic science researchers, clinical researchers, practicing physicians, medical students, residents, and healthcare professionals to communicate and collaborate on an open platform.”

Make no mistake.  Blogs will remain important for medical professionals.  However, over time, I think that social networks will increase in importance and attract more eyeballs.  This is because it takes less time to participate in them and foster broader and more diverse communities.  

Postscript: John Bell has this interesting post on physician use of social media.  

2 Comments/Trackbacks

In my opinion, it is not a question of Blogs versus Social Networks -- the physician need not choose between the two. Social Networks and Blogs are both tools for expression and I believe that physicians will increasingly use both tools rather than limiting themselves.
Social Neworks for physicians such as Healtheva at provide a feature rich platform for collaboration among physicians and life science researchers. The Healtheva platform also automatically creates a blog for each member with the member having the option to personalize their blog and to post content on his/her blog. Blogs enable the physicians to express themselves on varied topics over the Web whereas social networks enable expression among a selected community that is part of the physician's network.

Ramon, thanks for your comment about what I assume is your company. Overall, I think it has to do with physicians' time and temperament. While I think both tools are valuable, I still think that technologies that enable physicians to participate online without eating up a huge amount of time will be preferred.

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