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Medical blogs: contributing to health science

An article from the E-Journal of the ESC Council for Cardiology Practice

Many blogs today are dedicated to health science and are beneficial in that they provide freedom, spontaneity, to the blogger, with opportunity for comments and information to users. Blogs generally create a new situation where both health professionals and patients share their opinions and feelings. They may soon be better organized, and might become a good system to spread and increase medical literature. Ideas will not only be original but also have value in clinical practice such that the blogosphere would hold the daily updated book of our clinical practice. Learn more about blogs and how to set up your own in this article.


At the beginning of 1998, there were fifty blogs; today there are millions(1). "Weblog" was used first to describe the process of "logging the web" as one surfes the web. The short form, "blog," was later coined and is a contraction of the terms "we blog". There were 23 known blogs at the beginning of 1999. From the year 2000, the importance of blogs started to become more widely understood, and a community of "bloggers" (authors of blogs) and blog readers had sprung up.

All blogs tend to share links - this blog by doctors only shares links - and discuss interesting content that users have discovered, on the web but blogs may differ in media type, (a blog comprising videos is called a vlog, one comprising links is called a linklog, a site containing a portfolio of sketches is called a sketchblog or one comprising photos is called a photoblog), device they use (a blog written by a mobile device like a mobile phone or PDA could be called a moblog)and genre (art, travel, or music blog for example.

Then there are corporate blogs, (either used internally to enhance the communication and culture in a corporation or externally for marketing, branding or public relations) and question blogs (a type of blog that answers questions).

By far the most common form of blog however is the personal blog- an ongoing diary or commentary by an individual, intended for general public consumption (example : Rebecca's pocket a hodge podge of diverse information)

In March 2008, 184 million people "had started a blog" and 346 million people read blogs in 2007. Most blogs however are abandoned soon after they are set up (with 60% to 80% being abandoned within one month) and few are regularly updated.

The majority of the blogosphere is made up of minor, not seen blogs, but there are some - such as the one of Jim Romenesko, chief of - that are confirmed to have 20.000 visitors per day and that can compete with the most important newspapers in the world. The importance of the blog depends on the topics and blogger’s ability. But every blog has its own dignity and can share or teach something.

1 - How to start a blog

It is quite easy to set up a blog, you do not need to know any program language and many blog hosts are free. One blogger and his or her computer, is all that is needed. Here's one surgeon's blog. Once the topic has been chosen, you blog will represent your personality and reflects the purpose of the Web site that hosts the blog. A medical topic will contain raw data, instant comments and sometimes shares information with a community.

You will post a series called posts and will be looking for comments to your entries. They will appear in a single page in reverse-chronological order (your latest post will be at the top of the page). 

The information can be written by you entirely, gleaned from other Web sites or other sources, and contributed by users, through their comments. Your posts will frequently link to other sites that you will favor, especially those that support your likings/ interests, or points you are trying to make. 

  •  Choose the topic/s you want to present. Yourself, your work, etc.

Open the blog and select an  attractive template. Here are free websites that allow you to open a blog. Choose from blogger, splinder, and home.
If you want to make your blog more personal you can look for wordpress, dotclear, or movabletype.  

  • Use RRS and draw a list of your favourite sites.

Some of the most used links to find template and RSS are template monster and master templates.  

 This is the image that allow you to access to an RSS.
RSS is a technology that enables the reader to grab new writing from many different blogs and display it all together in one easy to read place, using an RSS reader tool on your PC or even a new personalized Google homepage.
Many blogs syndicate their content to subscribers using RSS (Really Simple Syndication), a popular content distribution tool. They often link with the most known social sites, newsvine, delicious, digg, stumbleupon, reddit, technorati and netvibes.

To get an RSS you need an RSS feed. Here is where to find some good RSS feeds on the web: bloglines, and newsgator

  • There are many free utilities, which you can use.

Some of them have to do with blog running (such as statistics) and others make for easier communication. Here is a website allowing patients to upload and share diagnostic-quality medical images using nothing but a standard web browser. 

If you have images or videos relevant to your specialty to upload, here is a good example of one, regarding cardiac CT and MRI.

  • Try to be consistent with bringing your blog up to date
  • Be as open-minded as you can. You do not have to satisfy anyone apart from your readers and yourself
  • Scan, scan and scan the web and spend some time at it before you post. You can probably find your ideas already well articulated elsewhere
  • Present links to little-known corners of the web and current news articles. A true weblog is a log of all the URLs you want to save or share
  • Contextualize the article
  • Provide additional facts you feel are pertinent to the issue at hand. Add an opinion, a different point of view from the one you have linked
  • Credit the source that led you to it so your readers have the option of  "moving upstream”
  • Edit the links with no more than one or two clear sentences. Always include some adjective describing your own reaction to the linked page. Write longer commentary as a separate essay
  • Be fearless and sarcastic if you wish to be
  • Make sure users (and crawlers) can easily find your blog
  • Think that you are trying to make medical/health communication a public and participatory endeavour
  • Some relevant tips for blogging 

You can find useful advice for blogging from famous succesfull bloggers and advice on how to become one,

2 - Benefits of blogs and health blogs in particular

Blogs, and medical blogs in particular, may offer :

  • Great freedom: everyone can give his or her personal point of view on a therapy, the result of a medical experience, an intuition, etc. Contrary to official press content, the blog’s power comes from its independence. 

On the whole, blogs are currently the province of the young, with 92.4% of blogs created by people under the age of 30. Medical bloggers are usually older. Unless bloggers are frequently young there is no age to start blogging. In fact, one most popular medical blog is the one by David Colquhoun a 73 year old professor of pharmacology in London. Her is another retired doctor's account on the current state of medicine from and technological ans philosophical point of view.

The blogger expresses his or her ideas, beliefs and experience (Bloggers are the conscience of the internet, Mukul Kesavan) . You can accept what you read, or not, but it is always new eyewitness evidence for you to discover. What you read is fresh, natural,spontaneous. Content offers a personal point-of-view, and it is interactive. You may see what points of views this "California Medicine Man" has to offer.

  • Patient bloggers

Patients with chronic disease because, as a means of self-   expression, it keeps patients positively busy, creates good relationships and, in short, distracts from one’s uneasiness (as next quoted in Mail Today on June 8, 2008).

It can act as both a source of information and suppor for patients or their families. For example this site that offers resources for parents of children with cognitive or emotional-behavior disabilities. View this patient's account on living with diabetes.

  • A source of news for other doctors and patients alike: investigative medical journalism is prevalent on derivative and referential papers often found in printed medical journals. Medical opinions appear long before they reach papers or magazines;

For example this blog on ADHD medications and treatments, offers a chance for everyone to comment on the most recent news in this area.

A list of the most influential heathcare blogs can be found here. Medical blogs are frequently picked up by mainstream media; thus, blogs can be a vehicle to influence medical and health policy (2). This is health journalism, this is healthaffairs.

Many important medical journals, the BMJ , newspapers - the New York Times,  and scientific societies, the ACC  know the strength of blogs and already have their own to try to continue the relationship with their readers.

  • A source of easy suggestions: medical blogs can also offer users informal syndication of the best from other similar blogs.

This sleep specialist offers his viewpoint. This urologist, his.

  • Real democracy and the possibility of knowing hidden opinions and feelings: all health professionals and patients are on the same level;

And this experience increases with people’s comments. The bloggers from the Iraq war On IRAQ, a triumph for blogs over traditional media) , September 11, and Katrina hurricane show how they have influenced public opinion. 

Vew this blog on nurse anesthesia with people and events that are important to the professional practice or this nurse's blog.

  • Complete points of view on the treated subjects: there is equal space for the pros and cons;

You may take a look at this blog concerning bioethics discussion blog.

  • Circular communication between the author and its readers. the best you can wish for any kind of communication. 

Blogs are often spontaneous and fresh and can be a source of useful information both for patients and health providers and can encourage discussion and learning.

3 - Blogs devoted to cardiology

On we have found 241,000 hits for blog cardiology. (0.13 seconds) (Feb 26, 2009). In this link you will find an interesting selection on cardiological blogs. This site is a new simple site to start with. Here you will find musings in the life of an internist, cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist. Finally, this is a blog for doctors and heart patients.

4 - Exercise caution and better judgement

However, it is important to remember that blogging can have ethical implications and can be used in complaints and legal proceedings. Since blogs often talk of sensitive data, bloggers must be encouraged to write in a way that doesn’t identify individuals and this is sometime difficult in a blog that it is supposed to be somewhat of a personal diary.
Everyone can talk, but only those who raise intelligent issues overcome the background noise. Also there may be charlatans opening up blogs, invite patients to exercise caution and not believe everything they will read.
Also you might want to be weary of blogs may be funded by corporate interests or that do not contain any comments to any articles. Exercise your better judgement.


In conclusion, medical blogs offer personal experience to you, accessible from your computer, which represent a growing side of the public face of health professions and communication. They offer physicians, nurses, patients, and cybernauts the opportunity to share their opinions, experiences and thoughts and to increase their knowledge with first-hand information. But medical blogs also risk revealing confidential information, and if they are not moderated by professional authors, they can mislead those who place too much trust in them.
One questions regarding medical written communication could be: will we still have books and printed medical journals in the future? They might in the future be confined to discussing studies in depth, reviews, guidelines, i.e, closed investigations.
Furthermore, the influence of blogs might influence medical papers to take account not only original ideas but also their value in clinical practice.
In other words, we have to go beyond the impact factor and devise a practical factor. (3) The blogosphere and the Internet, with all its usefulness, can meet this requirement and could become the daily updated book of our clinical practice.


1) H. J. Morris – Blogging burgeons as a form of web expression, in “US News § World Report”, Jan 15, 2001
2) Ivor Kovic, MD; Ileana Lulic, MD; Gordana Brumini, PhDJ - Examining the Medical Blogosphere: An Online Survey of Medical Bloggers - Med Internet Res 2008;10(3):e28
3) G. Watts – Beyond the impact factor– BMJ 2009;338:b553


Vol7 N°29

Notes to editor

The author is part of the Cardiology Department of the “Guadagna” Hospital, in Palermo, Italy. He is also webeditor for the Council for Cardiology Practice. You may discover the blog Prof. Guida edits on behalf of his national cardiological association. 

The content of this article reflects the personal opinion of the author/s and is not necessarily the official position of the European Society of Cardiology.