Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics

Many medical doctors choose to take the Hippocratic oath: a promise to carry out proper care and conduct to the best of his or her judgement or ability. If you’re a medical professional or a health and wellness professional, you probably have some ethical code or set of rules that you follow in your profession, even if it’s not the Hippocratic oath. You have standards or guidelines that you feel morally obligated to follow. The same is true for professional medical bloggers. So what does a healthcare blogger code of ethics look like?

The healthcare blogger code of ethics

There’s no ceremony or fanfare when a medical blogger takes up a code of ethics. There’s probably not any actual vowing or swearing going on, for that matter. Instead, a healthcare blogger applies a code of ethics to his or her work at all times.

Professional SEO copywriters write medical content that represents health and wellness professionals. This means that a healthcare blogger has similar obligations to a medical professional’s patients, a wellness professional’s clients, and the community as a whole. It also means they should follow a similar code of ethics.

Years ago, a website called Medbloggercode came up with a code of ethics for healthcare bloggers. The website no longer exists, but the code itself is still relevant.

“Clear representation of perspective”

The author’s qualifications and point of view should be obvious to the reader. Your audience should know if the article was written by a medical doctor, a registered nurse, a dietician, or a researcher with a master’s degree in biological science.

Equally, if the blogger is approaching information from the perspective of a healthcare consumer, a parent, or a community member, that should be clear.

If the author is a professional medical blogger with a decade of experience writing for doctors, clinics, and physicians, you can make this known. If the blogger represents your organization without any individual byline, that’s also fine. In this case, it should be clear if your organization is a medical device manufacturer, a doctor’s office or clinic, or an advocacy organization.

Transparency is key.

“Confidentiality”

Medical confidentiality is just as important for healthcare bloggers as it is for physicians. It may be even more important when you consider that the internet is a very public space; once things are introduced it’s next to impossible to make them private again.

Anecdotes, stories, and images should be stripped of any identifying information. HIPAA-compliant medical bloggers know how to do this.

“Commercial disclosure”

Like “clear representation of perspective”, this is for transparency. The audience should know if they are reading sponsored blog posts or articles paid for by pharmaceutical companies, medical device manufacturers, and other commercial entities.

There’s nothing wrong with a commercial connection. Writing about your professional opinions and experiences with a hip replacement is fine. Pretending to be a consumer sharing the experience of a hip replacement when you’re not — that’s not okay.

“Reliability of information”

Your medical content needs to be accurate, and you should cite resources whenever possible. This provides confidence for the reader, helps the audience know where information is coming from, and allows the audience to do further research.

One famous study found that more than half of the readily findable online information on a simple health question (safe sleep positions for infants) was inaccurate. Other research has found similar or worse levels of accuracy on other topics. 

Healthcare bloggers can make a difference by providing accurate, accessible information.

“Courtesy”

Another way to say this is professionalism. Referring to other articles and publications is a good thing to do; attacking them is not. Social media stunts like the #ChickenSandwichWar can be fun and profitable, but they’re not suited to healthcare blogging.

Don’t attack or insult your commenters, and don’t allow commenters to attack or insult one another. Debate and discussion is great, but it’s not to be confused with aggression.

Maintain a healthy thread that allows people to safely voice their ideas and opinions.

What do you think?

  • As a medical professional, do you feel like this code of ethics for medical bloggers is adequate?
  • As a wellness professional, do you think that the list should include additional standards?
  • Do the things that go without saying — such as  fact checking sources or encouraging patients to seek professional care instead of trusting online health information and self-diagnosis — really go without saying?
  • As someone looking for online health information, would this code of ethics give you confidence in the information you see?
  • Do you think most medical bloggers apply this code of ethics?

Let us know in the comments below!

For professional writing services from a HIPAA-compliant medical blogger, contact Haden Interactive.

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