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Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics for Healthcare Bloggers

Healthcare Bloggers need a break! That’s what I thought when I came across an article at www.getbetterhealth.com about 2 medical blogs shutting down. As I delved deeper into discussions relating to the controversy, it dawned on me that a Code of Ethics for Healthcare Bloggers is a mandate and not a jocular suggestion. It could land medical bloggers in deep soup if propriety and ethics is ignored. The 2 instances cited are just a dime and many more might be in the line of fire. I came across a blog dedicated to the cause – http://medbloggercode.com. This blog encourages health bloggers to follow a code of conduct and any blogs adhering to the code can apply for membership to the blog and community. Here are the 2 goals of the code:
  1. To give the readers of a medical blogger a clear idea of the standards by which the blog is maintained.
  2. To give bloggers (especially anonymous ones) a clear set of guidelines they can show employers, patients, or other concerned parties as to the nature of the blogging.

The Code

  1. Clear representation of perspective – readers must understand the training and overall perspective of the author of a blog. Certainly bloggers can have opinions on subjects outside of their training, and these opinions may be true, but readers must have a place to look on a blog to get an idea of where this author is coming from. This also encompasses the idea of the distinction between advertisement and content. This does not preclude anonymous blogging, but it asks that even anonymous bloggers share the professional perspective from which they are blogging.
  2. Confidentiality – Bloggers must respect the nature of the relationship between patient and medical professionals and the clear need for confidentiality. All discussions of patients must be done in a way in which patients’ identity cannot be inferred. A patient’s name can only be revealed in a way that is in keeping with the laws that govern that practice (HIPPA, Informed Consent).
  3. Commercial Disclosure – the presence or absence of commercial ties of the author must be made clear for the readers. If the author is using their blog to pitch a product, it must be clear that they are doing that. Any ties to device manufacturer and/or pharmaceutical company ties must be clearly stated.
  4. Reliability of Information – citing sources when appropriate and changing inaccuracies when they are pointed out
  5. Courtesy – Bloggers should not engage in personal attacks, nor should they allow their commenters to do so. Debate and discussion of ideas is one of the major purposes of blogging. While the ideas people hold should be criticized and even confronted, the overall purpose is a discussion of ideas, not those who hold ideas.

Conclusion

KevinMD gives in elaborate detail the happenings that landed the 2 bloggers in a soup. There are various opinions on the discussion in a follow-up post. The final answer lies in discerning what is private and what is public domain. Sensitive info about the patient is to be held diligently in high regard. Invasion of privacy other than for direct patient care in the medical setting is a crime by itself and should be shunned by all. The legal eagle has become a complex jumbo. A nexus between legal enforcers and any distraught patient is dynamite. Avoid it at all costs!

In developing countries like India, the scenario is slightly different – but things are catching on at a fast pace. We, healthcare bloggers must be on our toes trying to adhere to certain ethical principles. “The Code” at MedBloggerCode is a definitive starting point.

Doctor with Stethoscope

Medical Education in India and the US: A Comparison

Medical education in India encompasses allopathic medicine and other indigenous systems of medicine. Allopathic medicine is by far the most favored of all systems because of its wider acceptability and global recognition. This article deals only with allopathic medicine.

Like in the US, medical education in India involves a lengthy and arduous process.

Pre-University Course or HSSLC: It consists of pre-university studies or Higher Secondary School Leaving Certification (HSSLC) in the Basic Sciences with Physics, Chemistry and Biology as its major subjects for 2 years. A prospective medical student should have attained an average of 50 percent of the marks to qualify for medical education. A prospective medical student should apply for various competitive exams to attain a seat at any of the medical colleges or universities across the country. In the US, this stage is termed undergraduate education and consists of 4 years.

The Medical College: A medical college is a medical institution approved by the Medical Council of India (MCI) to train medical students and confer them the MBBS degree, also called Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. Medical colleges are state-owned, state-aided or private institutions.

Undergraduate Medical Education: Five years of meticulous study of preclinical, paraclinical, and clinical subjects prepare the medical student to appear for four quality assured professional exams through the years of study. The preclinical study consists of one year study of Basic sciences like Human Anatomy, Human Physiology and Human Biochemistry. This prepares the way to a more thorough and in-depth overview of paraclinical subjects of Pathology, Pharmacology, Microbiology and Forensic Medicine for two years. This is accompanied by an introduction to the clinical sciences and learning in the clinical setup. The next one year covers Community Medicine, Ophthalmology and Otorhinolaryngology with clinical insinuation and glimpses of the practices of medical and surgical specialties. The last one year is dedicated to the clinical subjects of Medicine, Surgery, Orthopedics, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics with all the sub-specialties. Having cleared the Final Professional examination, a medical graduate is required to complete one year of internship covering various specialties.

Internship Program: It consists of one year of rotating internship in various specialties. Only on completion of the internship is a medical graduate awarded the MBBS degree and a license to practice medicine anywhere in the country as a General Practitioner or Medical Officer. He is also prescribed the title Doctor. Permanent Medical Registration is required either in the Indian Medical Council or State Medical Council to practice. This is in contrast to the 3 to 7 years residency program required to practice in the US.

Post-Graduate Medical Education: This equates to the residency program in the US. Entrance to a Post-graduate degree program is through competitive exams conducted by the concerned college or university. It consists of 3 years of study to achieve an MS or MD degree in any surgical or medical specialty respectively. Following this a Doctor in India can practice in that said specialty as a medical or surgical specialist. There are also post-graduate diploma programs and Diplomate of National Board (DNB) programs for furtherance of medical education. Fellowship programs in various specialties can also be pursued.

Super-Specialty or Sub-Specialty Medical Education: A doctor who has attained a specialty post-graduate degree is qualified to pursue super-specialty or subspecialty education in their field of interest.

A medical graduate in India has the license to practice the broad specialties of Medicine and Surgery but is required to refer patients to a specialist to handle problems that require a particular expertise. Thus, it can be a long journey for the Indian medical graduate before he can settle down, unless he/she is satisfied to practice as a general practitioner.

CEO-Boss

The CEO and Peter

The CEO of a large HMO dies and goes to heaven.

St. Peter shows him to a lovely villa, wonderful music, great views, full staff of servants, gourmet meals, etc.

The CEO says, “This is terrific!”

“Don’t get too comfortable,” says St. Peter. “You’re only approved for a three-day stay.”

Pharaoh CEO

Psychiatric Help Counter

Nude Patient at the Psychiatrist

A patient shows up in a psychiatrist’s office nude and asks

“Doc, do I look crazy to you?”

The Doc replies ” I can see ‘your’ nuts.[box type=”spacer”]Monday Blues

Psychiatrist with Patient

Low Self Esteem

A woman goes to see the psychiatrist about her low self-esteem. She is unhealthy, pale, and obese. After tearfully explaining her predicament, the doc says, “hmm, yes, could you please lie on the floor under the window?” “Now over next to the door.” “Now under the bookshelves.” “Thank you.”

He then occupies himself with writing. The patient, exasperated, interrupts him and asks if he has anything he can offer her. “No, he says, you need to see your internist about your poor health.” “Then what was all that stuff you had me do, lying on the floor?”

“Oh, I’m having a new white sofa delivered next week and was wondering where to put it.”

Doctor and Drawn Blinds

Surgeon and Drawn Blinds

The patient awakened after the operation to find herself in a room with all the blinds drawn.

“Why are all the blinds closed?” she asked her doctor.

“Well,” the surgeon responded, “They’re fighting a huge fire across the street, and we didn’t want you to wake up and think the operation had failed. [box type=”spacer”]

Eerie Eye

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