Healthcare Bloggers Code of Ethics

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The HONcode is the oldest and most widely used ethical code concerning the quality and trustworthiness of medical and health related information available on the internet. It was created for evaluating medical and health websites and outlines eight ethical standards in the presentation of medical and health information online.

To become HONcode accredited and display the HONcode seal, there is an application process and an annual review. The aim of the HONcode is to protect the reader by ensuring that they know the source and purpose of medical and health information they read on the internet.

Healthcare BloggerA new ethical code designed specifically for the healthcare blogger is the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics. The code allows the blogger to identify the standards by which they blog. The Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics covers issues pertaining to confidentiality, privacy and commercial disclosure. It offers some protection for both the reader, in terms of blogger disclosure of credentials and financial interests, and the blogger, by providing documentation of their blogs focus and intent.

Patient BloggerA second logo is available for those non-medical bloggers who post medically-oriented content in accord with the code but did not feel it appropriate to represent themselves as medical bloggers.

Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics

  1. Clear representation of perspective
  2. Readers must understand the training and overall perspective of the author of a blog. Certainly bloggers can have opinions on subjects outside of their training, and these opinions may be true, but readers must have a place to look on a blog to get an idea of where this author is coming from. This also encompasses the idea of the distinction between advertisement and content. This does not preclude anonymous blogging, but it asks that even anonymous bloggers share the professional perspective from which they are blogging.

  3. Confidentiality
  4. Medical bloggers must respect the nature of the relationship between patient and medical professionals and the clear need for confidentiality. All discussions of patients must be done in a way in which patients’ identity cannot be inferred.

  5. Commercial Disclosure
  6. The presence or absence of commercial ties of the author must be made clear for the readers. If the author is using their blog to pitch a product, it must be clear that they are doing that. Any ties to device manufacturer and/or pharmaceutical company ties must be clearly stated.

  7. Reliability of Information
  8. Citing sources when appropriate and changing inaccuracies when they are pointed out.

  9. Courtesy
  10. Bloggers should not engage in personal attacks, nor should they allow their commenters to do so. Debate and discussion of ideas is one of the major purposes of blogging. While the ideas people hold should be criticized and even confronted, the overall purpose is a discussion of ideas, not those who hold ideas.

If these are principles you use in your blogging and would like your blog added to the list of websites agreeing to the code, either go the the Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics website or email the site administrator.

About the Author

Walter Jessen, Ph.D. is a Data Scientist, Digital Biologist, and Knowledge Engineer. His primary focus is to build and support expert systems, including AI (artificial intelligence) and user-generated platforms, and to identify and develop methods to capture, organize, integrate, and make accessible company knowledge. His research interests include disease biology modeling and biomarker identification. He is also a Principal at Highlight Health Media, which publishes Highlight HEALTH, and lead writer at Highlight HEALTH.