What Should I Consider Before Starting a Blog?

Question: I've seen several blogs by other healthcare providers, and I'm thinking about starting my own. Is there anything I should consider before taking the plunge?

Answer: Blogs have become an extremely popular forum for sharing information electronically and through social media. It's not surprising that an increasing number of doctors have taken to blogging – whether writing on their own blog sites or participating in the blogs of others. Some experience personal satisfaction in regular blogging while others find it a "chore." Here are a few things to consider before you start:

Do You Have the Time?

Establishing and maintaining a blog requires a genuine commitment of time to develop a repeat audience. Some say two or three postings per week are necessary to develop the interest and keep people returning to your site. Then there are the responses to your blogs that may require time to answer. Some healthcare bloggers spend an hour or two a day on these tasks.

Will You Use Your Name?

Do you want to reveal your identity and profession on your blog? Some doctors prefer to identify themselves and use their blog as a practice promotional tool or as a means of communicating with colleagues and patients while others prefer anonymity.

If your content will be of a clinical nature, do you plan to include "cases of interest"? If so, make sure to edit out all patient information to prevent a breach in patient confidentiality and a HIPAA violation. Also, if you are likely to post X-rays, scans or photographs, again consider patient identity issues and whether patient consent is needed to release such information. If any of your patients or colleagues even think you're writing about them, you could be setting yourself up for a lawsuit.

Who Is Your Intended Audience?

The web's audience is global, and the internet goes far beyond your friends, family, patients and colleagues. Is there one particular audience you want to target? Will your blog content be addressed to the world in general or be more focused to your patients or colleagues?

Could Your Comments be Construed as Advice?

You may want to consult your practice's attorney for guidance in crafting a disclosure statement like the one that follows to adequately protect your interests: Information provided on this site is not to be considered clinical advice and is not meant to replace a visit to your healthcare provider. Visitors to this site are encouraged to confirm information found here with other sources and to seek qualified advice from qualified professionals. 

Do You Have a Pending Case? 

Don't blog about a pending case or board allegation. Remember, your blog, website, social media posts, advertising, letters to the editor, appearances on TV as well as any other public communications may be used against you in any investigation.

The Internet is Forever

As a result, your blog and social media posts must be written with the same due diligence you would use in charting. Just as with your case records, these posts can be displayed on a large screen before a jury in court.

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