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A recent article on the NPR website raised several valid concerns about doctor blogs and the impact they have on patient privacy.  According to the article, medical blogs can be helpful and informative to both doctor and the public.  They are helpful to doctors because they can share cases, methods, and techniques; and, blogging can be an effective marketing tool.  Also, medical blogging has been an avenue for doctors to express opinions about malpractice and how doctors are practicing “defensive medicine” to avoid lawsuits.  Doctors can also express their concern and dissatisfaction with medical billing and reimbursement rates.

For the public, it provides an inside view about the latest medical techniques and equipment as well as a source of peer review of doctors by other doctors.  The public can read doctor opinions about popular pharmaceutical products.   

However, along with the pros there are also some cons that come with medical blogs.  Certainly, medical blogs raise concerns regarding patient privacy.  Some are concerned that stories shared online may identify the patient.  The patients may be able to identify themselves.  Or, by the description of the patient’s particular condition, symptoms, or by other information others may be able to identify the patient.   

Also, many of the posts online may cast those in the medical field in an unfavorable light. Some blogs seem to exploit patients suffering from severe and sometimes terminal medical conditions and illnesses.  A blog called “Aggravated DocSurg” says that operations are “fun.”  Another called “Radiology Picture of the Day” shows a wide variety of horrific conditions from brain diseases to breast implant ruptures.  Another discusses celebrity skin problems – which, is that for informational OR entertainment value?…Maybe both.   According to the NPR article, another post actually stated what a “bummer” it is to have so many patients die.    

Are these doctor bloggers obtaining the consent of their patients to post this information?  Shouldn’t this private health information be protected pursuant to the Federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act?     

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