Got Ethics?

Have you spotted these icons yet?

Hc_blogger_ethics

Hc_patient_blogger_ethics

What they represent is another solid answer to the burning question, “How do you know whether a health/medical blog is credible”?

There is of course the HONCode for policing the reliability of medical and scientific sites on the Net, and also Trusted.MD’s new HealthTrain Manifesto, a sort of online community petition for a new “integrity standard” among healthcare bloggers.

But Rob Lamberts, MD, who practices internal medicine and pediatrics in Eastern Georgia, and blogs about it at A Distractible Mind, felt something more concrete was needed. After witnessing two med bloggers get roughed up in the workplace after being “outed” (Fat Doctor and Barbados Butterfly), and also learning that one supposed doctor-blogger was a high school student in disguise, Lamberts decided to take the whole code of ethics idea into his own hands.

With a little lot of help from his friends (Dr. Val at Revolution Health, Dean at Rebuildyourback.com, and Amanda at It’s About the Walls) Lamberts recently created the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics, complete with a patient option –- same ethics, just with a nod to our non-medical-professional status. (I’m featured on the HBCE site today as the newest community member).

You can submit your blog to be evaluated for inclusion HERE.

How does it all work? Dr. Rob answered a few key questions this week for the DiabetesMine.com community:

So who actually evaluates the applying blogs for compliance with the code?

When someone applies to show the code, there are several active member bloggers who go over to the site and evaluate it. We’re also setting up a new forum where more members can evaluate new sites, because we really want other users to have a stake in the code as well. The participation has been quite enthusiastic. The fact is, the code will only be worthwhile if we maintain the integrity of the sites allowed to display it. There have been a number of commercially-oriented sites that we’ve rejected because we felt they were just trying to exploit the code to increase their own traffic.

Is there a defined relationship to the (Health On the Net Foundation) HONCode?

No real relationship with HONCode. I think it represents something different. First off, the HON code is for any kind of website, not just blogs. The HBCE is for bloggers only. Second, the HON seems more oriented toward the intellectual nature of the information and how it is presented. Their goal seems to be to avoid misrepresentation of scientific facts. This is not the case with the HBCE. The HBCE is stating how a blog is going to be run. I think most of the bloggers I know already abide by the HBCE code – they try to treat people with respect, they disclose financial interest, and they don’t misrepresent themselves. I just thought that there needed to be something simple that people could use to express these things, for the sake of the readers, and also in case someone questioned the nature of an anonymous blogger.

How are you publicizing or driving adoption of the HBCE code?

Besides posting updates on my personal blog (Musings of a Distractible Mind), I just let the logo on other people’s sites attract interest. As more people are displaying this, they are getting people clicking on it and coming over to the website. We have continued to have a steady stream of new blogs signing up every week. The official tally at this moment is 46 Healthcare Bloggers and 11 Patient Bloggers. We have 4 more that are in the queue at the present time, so we will get up over 60 in total.

What is your personal stake in this project, and where do you hope it will go?

Nothing, really. I just am doing it because I really like the medical blogging community and want it to stay healthy. If I can help people to keep blogging and do so in a way that is in keeping with the nature of our profession, I will be very happy.

By the way, we are showcasing new blogs as they sign up at our new “Healthcare Blogger Gallery.” I really want this to become a place where people interested in medical blogs can go to learn more and have a “taste test” of various blogs without having to hunt for each one individually. I want it to be a nice reference site for anyone wanting to learn more about medical blogging.


Thank you for all your efforts, Mr. Ethics (!), aka Dr. Rob.

6 Responses

  1. Dr. Val
    Dr. Val September 6, 2007 at 9:11 am | | Reply

    Thanks for this great summary of the HBCE. A tip of the hat to Dr. Rob for all his hard work on this – it’s no surprise that a primary care physician would spearhead the effort for good preventive “blog medicine.” If we all subscribe to the tenets – we’re sure to keep a vibrant, healthy medical blog community going :)

  2. Bernard Farrell
    Bernard Farrell September 6, 2007 at 12:03 pm | | Reply

    Amy

    Thank you for this useful information about HCBE. I’d seen the logo on your blog last week and I meant to investigate it more. Now I’ve applied and we’ll see what happens.

  3. Dean Moyer
    Dean Moyer September 6, 2007 at 1:20 pm | | Reply

    Amy,

    Thanks for this really great review of the HBCE program. You’ve done an excellent job of explaining what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

    Dean

  4. Fat Doctor
    Fat Doctor September 7, 2007 at 12:30 am | | Reply

    Hey, Amy, I’ve noticed that since putting my HBCE logo on my blog, I’ve become so very hyperalert to patient confidentiality that my blog has become…boring. Any solutions in mind? :)

  5. Kim
    Kim September 7, 2007 at 8:49 am | | Reply

    Great article! I’ve been displaying the logo for awhile now and think it’s a great idea!

  6. AmyT
    AmyT September 7, 2007 at 12:09 pm | | Reply

    Hi Fat Dr (I guess it’s OK to call you that? :) ,

    Can’t you just change the names to protect the innocent? Then you could still tell the juicy stories, right?

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