Wall Street Journal Examines Increased Popularity of Blogging Among Patients
The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday examined how blogs "have become a significant new forum for health care consumers" as "Web-savvy patients ... chronicle their experiences with everything from Alzheimer's and cancer to gastric-bypass surgery and childbirth." According to the Journal, the blogs, which often provide links to the latest medical research and news, "present a new and more personal alternative to the plethora of disease-related Web chat rooms, message boards and e-mail discussion groups." David Sifry, founder of the blog search engine Technorati, estimates that "hundreds of thousands" of individuals use blogs on illnesses and health-related issues. In addition, an increased number of health care groups, providers and disease advocacy organizations have begun to encourage and sponsor blogs to help patients share their experiences.
High Point Regional Hospital in North Carolina last month launched three patient blogs on the hospital Web site, and the Association of Cancer Online Resources, which sponsors e-mail discussions on the acor.org Web site, has considered a plan to help subscribers establish blogs. The American Cancer Society Futuring & Innovations Center also recently sponsored a conference at which several organizations discussed how to incorporate blogs into patient communication efforts. However, blogs do have some risks.
Many individuals who use blogs are not medical experts and could post incorrect or outdated information, and "one blogger's experience and expertise may be limited and even misleading to others," the Journal reports. According to the Journal, the medical community is "still trying to figure out how or whether to apply ... controls" to regulate posts on blogs. "The verdict is still out on how this is going to evolve -- and how people entering this new blogging environment will be able to sort, filter and create reliable information," ACS Deputy Chief Medical Officer Len Lichtenfeld said (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 5/4).