Web Logs Offer Viewers a Rare Glimpse Into the World of Medicine

Christine Wiebe


June 22, 2004

In This Article


What if you could read the private journals of doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers, complete with confessions of medical mistakes, anecdotes about difficult patients, or irate missives about administrators? How would you like to know what other healthcare workers are thinking about today's headlines or the latest medical controversy? Would you be willing to share your own thoughts or experiences for anyone else to read?

Such interactions may seem unimaginable in the world of medicine where "open communication" remains an elusive goal. Yet every day, hundreds of healthcare professionals and patients engage in just such frank exchanges in a virtual underground of medical "blogs." The word "blog" is short for "Web log," which essentially is a personal journal posted on the Internet.

Some bloggers remain anonymous so they can vent more freely, although many identities are only thinly cloaked. Others are known and respected, including faculty at medical schools and practicing physicians, who blend humor with thoughtful commentaries about the world of medicine and beyond.

Although no one knows how many medical blogs currently exist, a tour around the Web turned up at least 100, with names that hint at the content the reader is likely to find. "A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure" is the aptly named blog of a general surgeon; "Trust Me, I'm a Doctor" offers critiques of newly published clinical findings; and a retired urologist shares her opinions on "The Hormone Diva Speaks!"

A recent posting on the well-read "DB's Medical Rants" blog addressed an article from the New York Times about doctors who don't spend enough time listening to their patients. "Physicians, try allowing the patient to tell his/her entire story," writes "rcentor," who, most blog aficionados know, is a medical professor in Alabama. "It really does not take that long, I know, because I have done it. And amazingly, I generally learn more from their story than my questions ... Our questions should clarify the story, add flesh to the bones, help achieve a fuller tale. Perhaps we should restudy Socrates, and his question- asking skills."