Sunday January 22, 2006
Doc BlogIN the United States and Europe, scientists are slowly starting to embrace blogs as an avenue for sharing information and communicating with each other.
I surfed through Malaysian blogs, hoping to find equally Web-savvy doctors using the blogosphere as a marketplace of ideas.
My search turned up quite a number of blogs by doctors, although few were actually blogging about medical topics; what I got were mostly personal blogs by people who happened to be doctors.
One of the most active medical blogs is Malaysian Medical Resources (http://medicine.com.my), featuring several regular bloggers like Palmdoc, TECheah, Dobbs and Vagus (doctors blogging under pen names).
Malaysian Medical Resources (MMR), as the name suggests, is less a blog than a portal linking its visitors to other medical websites, hospitals, government agencies, societies and organisations, as well as health and medical blogs. MMR also hosts online forums, provides locum listings and posts interesting updates from scientific papers or journals.
The blog is also worth a visit for its doctors’ running commentary on current medical and health happenings. Every new post gives you a very interesting behind-the-scenes perspective of issues surrounding medicine and healthcare in Malaysia.
In one recent post, Palmdoc laments the fact that Malaysia has yet to catch up with Singapore, which has just recently recruited top US cancer scientists.
“We are still mired in politics, stifling policies, red tape and bureaucratic obstacles. We have problems retaining quality researchers let alone attract(ing) those from abroad, whether they are Malaysians or foreigners. Indeed, since we mentioned that Malaysia’s Biovalley is in danger of becoming a Valley of Ghosts, has anything changed for the better?”
TECheah, another regular MMR blogger, revels in the freedom of expression offered through blogging.
When he began expanding from personal notes to topics with more controversial undertones, he found that “it offers a feeling of satisfaction when a topic that seems so mundane is brought to life with views from an obscure angle.”
One subject that is generally deemed “hands off” for doc bloggers is that of patients. “We don’t openly discuss patients ? (or) blog about patients specifically, but we do sometimes mention clinical scenarios in general terms and certainly do not identify patients individually,” says Palmdoc, who blogs from home, usually in the early hours of the morning when he is free.
“Discussing patient conditions through blogs should not contravene any ethical rules,” adds TECheah.
For doctors, blogging carries another level of responsibility, as their profession often holds them to a higher standard of ideals. A doctor who uses profanity and false information in a blog is just as distasteful as a doctor who lies, shouts and curses.
While TECheah feels that doctors should be allowed the same freedom of expression as anyone else, they should also defend the integrity of their profession.
“The only principle I practise is that one should not write what one would not otherwise say in person. Despite the offer of anonymity, I prefer to back my writings by putting my face and credibility literally on the line,” he says.
What are the rules surrounding doctors who blog? As far as Palmdoc and TECheah are aware, neither the Malaysian Medical Council nor hospitals have set any rules about blogging, as long as doc bloggers are not seen as advertising their services.
Nonetheless, both TECheah and Palmdoc requested to stay anonymous in this story.