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The Growing Influence Of Healthcare Blogs

Over the past few months we’ve seen evidence that healthcare blogs are growing0091906814.jpg in influence. First, hospital CEOs, influential journalists and others are jumping on the blogging bandwagon.  Second, to the chagrin of health executives, whistleblowers are using the medium to air corporations’ dirty laundry.  Rather than staying in the blogosphere, their accusations are receiving attention from the mainstream media.  For example:

-The Justen Deal Saga:  Today the Wall Street Journal published (subscription required) a front page article focusing on Kaiser’s handling of the Justen Deal saga.  For those familiar with this story, there’s nothing very new here.  However, it does provide an overview of how Kaiser handled the situation and how the story started on blogs and subsequently dripped into the mainstream media.  

-The AstraZeneca Newsletter Flap:  Earlier this month AstraZeneca executive Mike Zubillaga said that sales representatives should view doctors as “big bucket[s] of money.”  AstraZeneca quickly fired Zubillaga, but his remarks were covered by number of news outlets.  However, the story didn’t end there.  Whistleblowers at the company continue to feed bloggers documents that they allege provide evidence the company is engaged in off-label marketing. 

Yesterday, AstraZeneca’s CEO commented on the blog story that refuses to die saying: “There was an issue and we took action; if there is another issue, we will take more action. We have in place a very thorough and well-understood compliance program in the US and across the entire business, with codes of conduct and operating principles and annual training, and I take all that very seriously.”

While these developments have been negative for healthcare corporations, some are embracing blogs.  For example, Johnson & Johnson hosted a dinner with bloggers (which I attended) and is considering launching blogs of their own.  

What does this mean for health executives?  Simply put, they must get smart about social media, and learn how to effectively (and transparently) communicate with the public via these new technologies.  Fortunately, they have lots of resources to turn to.  For example, I know some will be attending the Healthcare Blogging Summit taking place April 30 in Las Vegas.  I will be moderating a panel during the event focusing on the influence of blogs, reputation management and blogger outreach.  If any readers are attending the Summit, please take a moment to reach out and say hello.  

Those unable to attend the event, but interested in learning how to engage social media successfully should pick up this free resource published by my firm Envision Solutions.  I’ll have more on the Summit next week.

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