Are Health Blogs Bad For You?

    March 28, 2008

There was a time when certain professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, did not advertise in a general way. In some arenas, advertising was looked down upon and considered to be below the standard. In others, particularly the law, advertising specific services was illegal. Once the ban on television advertisements was lifted, there were some lawyers who ventured forth to test the waters. Naturally, they were shunned by peers, relegated to the same category as ambulance chasers. That is, until the peers saw how the advertisements paid off in a very big way.

More recently, medical and legal professionals have taken another leap forward through the use of blogs. No longer is it considered tacky or unethical to promote one’s practice through Internet marketing. Websites like WebMD have become wildly popular, proving that the old ways of thinking are no longer valid.

While most blogs and websites advertising services are perfectly fine, there are most likely some that are not well thought out. An advertisement of services is fine but what if the blogger begins to offer advice, even without directly intending to do so?

There are a million fine points to medicine and, beyond the most basic remedy, it is rare to find a “one size fits all” diagnosis and potential treatment. The same can be said about the law. There are thousands—perhaps even millions—of laws governing everything from pet safety to treason, with each state and municipality putting in its own two cents. A blog that gives any sort of advice regarding either of these professions is simply asking for trouble. Regardless of how well-intentioned the blogger may be, it is inevitable that someone will take information from one of these sites, apply it to his own life, and meet with utter disaster. Then the blogger, his company, and probably the web server will become embroiled in a lawsuit. Naturally, there would be an argument about personal responsibility and the fact that there was a disclaimer on the site discouraging action without receiving professional advice. Yet disclaimers seem to have little impact on lawsuits anymore and most people admit to skipping over them when perusing a site.

In a world of instant gratification, professionals have the right idea in getting the word out about themselves and their services. One can only hope that the information disseminated is well thought out and that their malpractice insurance has been paid.