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Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics

In response to recent concerns about healthcare blogging (potential privacy violations in particular), a group of bloggers got together to create the first Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics.  All health bloggers who agree to abide by the ethical principles listed in the code will be given the HBCE seal to display on their blogs.  If anyone suspects the bloggers of violating that code, they can be reported to the HBCE website for further investigation.

I think this is a great step forward for health blogs – and a good reminder to respect confidentiality, transparency, and courtesy while blogging.  To request a copy of the seal for your blog, please write to:

Many thanks to Dr. Rob for taking the lead on this project.  Also thanks to Medi-mation who worked on the logo with me.

The 5 principles:

  1. Clear representation of perspective – 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.
  2. Confidentiality – 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
  3. Commercial Disclosure – 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.
  4. Reliability of Information – citing sources when appropriate and changing inaccuracies when they are pointed out
  5. Courtesy – 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.

Happy blogging!This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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