I've been a little gun-shy of my posts on Hope for Pandora recently. It seems as though a Seattle medical version of big brother may be watching... watching blogs. One of my friends - a blogging friend and real-life friend - was asked to remove material or shut his blog down because a compliance officer at a hospital where we train was concerned that certain of his posts violated patient confidentiality. Check out Noel's blog, aptly named, Constructive Procrastination.
I have sought to maintain the integrity of my writing by anonymizing my stories or asking permission of my patients to write about them or folding several patients into one pseudo-fictional account in the interest of telling a good story. Each of these techniques fall within the guidelines of the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics. What bothers me is that my friend had also observed these behaviors in his writing.
What bothers him is the manner in which he was approached. I'll let him tell the story in his own words, which started a couple of weeks ago. It seems as though our hospital wants to have more control over what gets into the public domain from experiences inside the hospital. Since I have vague aspiration to publish some of my own expereinces in a format more commercial than a blog, this got my ears up. After all, I already write for lunch money over at The Differential. I contacted folks in the community relations department before starting that gig - I wonder if someone else is trying to enforce some element of control or oversight on writers like me.
I think that my hospital administration is a little out of its league right now. One in ten Americans have tried their hand at blogging or something like it. I'm betting that health professionals are no exemption to that. I'm a little worried about an Orwellian move here. Why isn't the Health Care Blogger Code of Ethics or something like it good enough?
The compliance office may be full of friendly faces and good intentions, but do they really know what they are trying to do? Fortunately, my friend has volunteered to provide a voice for us bloggers.