I Hope My Doctors Aren’t Blogging Too Much

Today’s ACP Internist reports that nearly 1 in 8 doctors has a blog. This news comes from a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

First, the study’s flawed from a methodological standpoint: The investigators, based at the CDC, used data from a 2009 DocStyles survey of 1750 primary care physicians, pediatricians, obstetrician/gynecologists, and dermatologists in the U.S. According to the paper, this sample was drawn from the Epocrates Honors Panel. So they’re a technically-oriented bunch. Besides, the survey didn’t include oncologists, cardiologists, neurologists, radiologists or surgeons, among other physician-types.

Red flag: “Physicians who completed the survey were paid an honorarium of US $55–US$95.” This tells me that the doctors who participated have time on their hands and could use an extra $75 or so; it’s unlikely they’ve got thriving practices.

Blogging was defined as “posting commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video on a website which serves as an online journal.” The featured result was that 13% of the paid, internet-using physicians in the study said they blogged in the prior six months. The 226 bloggers tended to be young and male.

Seriously –

It’s unlikely that 1 in 8 doctors in the U.S. are blogging. I say this not just because the study’s flawed, but because almost all the physicians I know and trust with my health care don’t have time to write, unless they’re taking notes for a book, or do so as a hobby. They might, for example, blog about video games, or vegan recipes. But as far as their work is concerned, most non-shift doctors are lucky to see and examine all their patients, finish their notes and answer patients’ phone calls and get home by 11 PM.

In my view as a patient, if you’re a doctor and you blog for fun, there’s no issue. Blog away, and mind HIPPA. But if you’ve got anything else to do with your time, like –

  • reading medical and scientific literature
  • enjoying time with friends, family and others in your community
  • resting
  • exercising
  • spending one extra minute with each of your patients
  • re-checking primary data and calculations before publishing research
  • watching a movie
  • having lunch with colleagues
  • gardening
  • bowling, if that’s your thing…
  • <insert your passion>

– live your life! Spend time wisely.

I want my doctors to be happy, up-to-date, and rested.

Besides, what’s the point of so many busy, needed health professionals writing about their experiences or opinions, except if it’s for their own satisfaction?


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  • Hi there,

    I hate to state the obvious, but since there aren’t any other comments here asking about it, it seemed necessary: aren’t you a doctor who blogs?

    You make good points about the study’s design flaws (which are often missing when these things go viral). Furthermore, it may very well be that you blog on occasion but would prefer that your doctor didn’t (that seems like a perfectly reasonable opinion to have), but just seems to be something that merits further discussion/explanation, if you are making that point.

    Just my one cent,

    • Hi Emily,
      You’re perfectly right, except that my circumstances are unusual. I’m no longer practicing. If I were still keeping long hours and had responsibility for sick patients or were still running a lab, I doubt I’d have time to read blogs, no less to write one.

      • I wondered the same thing, Dr. S – so thanks for that reminder of your current status. I subscribe to a number of excellent physicians’ blogs (including yours) and I too have marvelled at how these docs manage to find the time to produce (sometimes remarkably) frequent posts. Or sometimes I’ll leave a comment about a particularly compelling article and receive a response almost immediately – which does make me wonder: “Why isn’t this guy spending the evening chatting with his family instead of hunched over a laptop talking to me?”

        I know how long it takes me to research, write and re-write a single blog post, and then moderate and respond to blog comments from my readers. I sure couldn’t be doing this if I were still working in my former crazy-busy PR career while having any kind of family or social life at the same time.

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