Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blog audit for health professionals

I have followed the advice of Clinicalcases.org in the post "Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals: More Bad than Good?" and applied for this blog to be accredited by the Health on the Net Foundation. HON is globally recognized as one of the prime monitors of quality of health information on the Internet. Consequently, if you visit a web site that has been accredited by HON, you can be reassured as to the quality of the site.

Auditing your blog
Seeking HON accreditation may be over kill, especially for blogs that deal mostly with personal opinion and reflection. However, looking at the eight HON principles and auditing your blog against them is not such a bad idea even if you don't apply for accreditation, especially in the light of concerns about confidentiality of health blogs and online behavior. The principles are:
  1. Authoritative - the website indicate the qualifications of the authors, especially if medical advice is given.
  2. Complementarity - information should support, not replace, the doctor/midwife-patient/woman relationship
  3. Privacy - privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site is respected
  4. Attribution - all information is attributed and referenced
  5. Justifiability - web site must back up claims relating to benefits and performance of any treatment or services that are discussed
  6. Transparency - accessible presentation, accurate email contact
  7. Financial disclosure
  8. Advertising policy
Results of my audit
The HON web site poses a series of questions that allows you to audit your blog against the eight principles.

The results of my audit have led me to:
  • add a 'last modified' date to my profile and this blog's 'about' page;
  • write a statement about my advertising policy ie I do not advertise or receive funding from advertising;
  • write a statement that I receive no funding for this blog;
  • be clear that I will not disclose any personal information that people send to this blog without their permission;
  • write a disclaimer that any medical or midwifery information I pass on is for education purposes only. Any queries should be checked with a doctor or midwife.
Useful tool or inhibiting?
Do you feel that this HON audit goes some way to alleviate fears about confidentiality and online behavior or do you feel it is not relevant for a blog such as this?

Should students be informed about the HON principles or do you think it only applies to medical web sites that give advice as opposed to blogs used solely for professional reflection?

Is the HON audit a useful tool or one that is overly prescriptive with the effect of inhibiting refection, conversation and discussion?

Image: 'Strangle Hold' Randy Son Of Robert
www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/459432985

6 comments:

healthskills said...

Congratulations on taking the step t become accredited by HON. I think that even if it is a bit of overkill (not that it means an awful lot of extra work from what you're doing already), it is one small step towards being open, honest and doing more than those who are unethical. Being open to peer review has got to be good for us all.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for that, healthskills. You're right - I only had to add a sentence here and there so it wasn't any extra work as such. And I absolutely agree that peer review can only be a positive thing.

midwifemuse said...

Have you ever started to read anything and started to tense up? That happened when I started reading this entry but I forced myself to continue and the end result is, I think, that I am not breaking any cardinal rules! Thank you for the post.
Do you think I need to apply for accreditation? My blog is 50/50 personal/profesional, it would seem a little 'overkill'?

Sarah Stewart said...

To be perfectly honest, midwifemuse, I'm not too sure where blogs fit in with HON, especially if the blog reflects personal opinions & not much else. I went through the process of 'auditing' my blog as an experiment to see where I was placed in terms of the principles. Luckily I didn't have to do much work to make myself compliant, just add a couple of sentences - if it had meant a lot of work or changed the flavor of the this blog, I wouldn't have bothered applying.

I think you need to ask if you give publish health information. If the answer is yes, then at the very least go through the process and see where that leaves you. If then you decide not to apply, at least you know what areas you may need to look at.

When I teach students about evaluating health web sites, I tell them to think about HON and the principles. So if a site has HON accreditation, that makes it a site they can 'rely' on. But as you say, a personal blog is a different entity.

Of course, I might have a different view altogether if I get turned down :)

midwifemuse said...

I have slighty altered my 'About' page to explain my qualifications and also to advise readers to seek help from their clinician.
If I am talking about any conditions, research, professional bodies, protocols etc. I always link to the relevant site within the text.
Having read HON and their requirements it would definitely be overkill, and tedious, to cite resources in a seperate area.
I'm just a simple blogger really!

Sarah Stewart said...

I do try to provide a reference when I am talking about a health care practice, but sometimes I don't because I just don't have the energy or inclination to do so. I guess in those circumstances I must make it quite clear that I am giving my own opinion & why I have that opinion.

If nothing else, going through this process has made me think about how I provide information that could be picked up by students & the general public. Being able to fully justify my opinion is good practice and good role modeling for students. But at the same time, I don't want to be making each post a mini essay - I don't have time for that sort of writing & that's not what this blog is about.