Should Physicians Blog?

by JHI Staff on December 4, 2013

It used to be that aside from the tiny percentage of celebrity physicians featured in magazines or on TV, the only way to get a doctor’s opinion was to be in his or her office. Today, on the other hand, you can instantly get tens of thousands of doctors’ opinions on just about anything, thanks to the fact that physicians—like everyone else—have increasingly come to embrace social media. Be it blogs, Facebook, Twitter, email or text messaging, doctors are online, eager to provide medical advice and otherwise opine on an endless array of topics.

In many cases, physicians are participating in the social-media presence established by their hospitals or academic institutions, while others are reaching out on their own. Either way, getting out there via social media is a way for physicians to promote recognition and credibility, bring in new patients, and influence the practice of medicine. As one physician put it in a New York Times blog post, “Doctors need to be on social media because ‘that’s where the patients are going to be.’” (She was herself quoting another blogging physician.)

But is this massive physician presence on social media actually good for patients? Needless to say, there are pros and cons:


  • ŸPatients have more opportunities to get qualified medical advice on issues of concern to them. Access to trusted information from a doctor can be especially important these days, given how many unqualified opinions about health issues are presented in unregulated online forums.
  • ŸWhen a pressing health issue comes up, consumers can find out immediately what doctors have to say about it. No matter how obscure a condition, physicians have weighed in on it online—and that can be a real anxiety reliever in a crisis.
  • There are opportunities to seek tailored advice. Many physicians take questions on websites, blogs and on their Facebook pages, or interact via Twitter. Some new cellphone-based services are specifically designed to let physicians dispense advice to individuals via messages or chat.
  • The online world provides physicians with opportunities to inform patients on a wider range of issues than what might normally be discussed in a visit to the office, providing helpful background and perspective to medical issues. As Baylor College’s Bryan Vartabedian, a blogging physician who specializes in exploring the role of social media in medicine, puts it in a post expanding on this point:

The capacity to be public really amplifies the fact that we all have passions, missions and roles in the world. Being front and center with a footprint and identity forces us to think about where we fit in the world. It was easy to be elusive when the world was private and our existence was restricted to an exam room. But now we’re part of a wide-open, networked world. This capacity to share and create exposes us for who we are and what we believe in. Being here is an act of intimacy.


  • ŸThe online world often highlights to an easily misled public the advice of doctors who take controversial stands with which most doctors would disagree. That can lead to unfounded health scares, for example, or the neglect of potential effective treatments in favor of less-proven treatments.
  • The ready availability of online advice might lead people to be less motivated to get the one-on-one time they need with their doctors.
  • As more doctors come to feel that maintaining an online presence is necessary to staying competitive in the field, they may have to take time away from their already overly packed schedules and practices to do it.
  • Most online pronouncements are not fact-checked or filtered in any way, and there is no way for consumers to validate the physician’s credentials or qualifications to provide the advice. Given a new online pulpit, some physicians may not be able to resist expounding on subjects that go beyond their expertise. Most laypeople don’t have any way of knowing the limit of a physician’s expertise, and may be too trusting.

Overall, I’m a big believer that technology, including and perhaps especially the online world, is in a position to do wonders for the cost, quality and accessibility of health care. That’s especially true in regions of the world, and even communities in the U.S., where high-quality health care hasn’t been widely available.

But technology needs to be applied judiciously, and physician online activity is no exception. It’s an ongoing experiment, and while I hope physicians keep at it, I also hope they’re responsible about reminding people of the limitations of online advice. Hopefully in the future there’ll be mechanisms for keeping the quality of the advice high, and for making sure it’s presented with the appropriate qualifications.

In the meantime, keep in mind that even when the online advice comes from a doctor, it’s a good idea to validate it with a second (or third) source.


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Should Physicians Blog? | jhublogs
December 4, 2013 at 8:56 am
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August 23, 2014 at 4:57 pm

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


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Darnell August 22, 2014 at 7:05 pm

Whatever the case, cost should never be weighed against what you intend to benefit in the
long run. Becoming a Certified Nurse Aide, or CNA as it is commonly known, is a rewarding career
choice that will provide unlimited experiences to you in the health career field.

Observing the overall health of the client including their social and emotional well being in there home.


precios 2014 August 21, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Currently it appears like Drupal is the top blogging platform available right now.
(from what I've read) Is that what you're using on your blog?


Magdalena Diaz December 11, 2013 at 6:49 am

Paritcipar en las redes sociales comentando una idea, dando un consejo acotado y juicioso, puede ser de gran ayuda. Creo que el criterio debe prevalecer, en todo orden de cosas.
Por ejemplo, para hacer un diagnóstico acertado, o prescribir un medicamento, se requiere de una consulta cara a cara. El examen físico es por lo general irreemplazable!.
En el caso de los sicólogos, me parece que podemos hacer alguna sugerencia, dar información o "contener" a una persona que esta en un momento de crisis, pero no podemos "tratarla" de esta manera en el tiempo.
Con buen criterio, los medios sociales pueden ser una vía de comunicación que colabora.


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