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Should your physicians blog?

Blogging, when successful, results in a certain notoriety, which, in the case of a physician blogger, calls attention to his or her medical practice. Such notoriety can help market the practice and result in new patients.

But there are other reasons doctors blog—and, in fact, marketing the practice isn’t one of the primary reasons physicians take to the keyboard.

Dr. John Mandrola, a cardiac electrophysiologist with Louisville Cardiology Group in Louisville, KY, and a physician blogger, pondered the “why” of blogging from a personal standpoint, and asked fellow physicians why they blog.

Reasons for writing

These are the reasons Mandrola cites in his blog post, “Six Reasons Why (I) Doctors Blog.” Excerpts of his explanation for each are republished here with permission.

  • The practice of medicine inspires. “Doctors feel compelled to write because they are passionate about what they do. For most doctors, Medicine plays out like a roller coaster—ups, downs and plenty of whooshes. It’s rarely dull. Those who write love doctoring; we want it to be better, we need to tell the stories; we hope that doing so might help others. It matters. Helping others is our creed.”
  • To educate. “The motivation to educate creates a win-win for all involved. For in teaching both the student (reader) and the teacher (doctor) learn.”
  • To better mankind. “Gooey, I know. But it’s true. As a whole, doctors are insanely competitive. Many of us measure our self-worth in how much we help people. In writing and publishing we aim to help in the plural.”
  • To give a look behind the curtain. “One of the most famous medical bloggers, Dr. Kevin Pho, a primary care doctor and author of Kevin MD, spoke of his aim to pull the curtain back… ‘By shining a light on physicians’ frustrations that the mainstream media may ignore, perhaps we can get one step closer to resolving these issues.'”
  • To archive useful information. “In the old-days, doctors often penned (literally) notebooks. Social media has transformed and expanded the usefulness of our notes. The confusion surrounding complicated diseases (cancer and atrial fib, for example) lends itself well to candid words from those in the know.”
  • To display our humanness. “The intensely human experience of doctoring inspires me to write. I want to tell you about all the cool stuff. I want to tell you about the human heart. Not just the one that pumps; the one that feels, and loves and grieves.”

Advice from a physician blogger

Yet, despite these admirable objectives, physician blogging isn’t without challenges. “The biggest challenge is accuracy/precision,” Mandrola tells Medical Office Manager. “Medicine and health are serious business, and people listen to doctors. These aren’t cooking blogs.”

There is also a learning curve.

“In the beginning, six years ago, I did not know how to write,” Mandrola says. “I’m still no Faulkner, but I’m a lot better. I wasn’t always precise, and that led to confusion. Now I choose words more carefully. And I’m more modest in my aims with a post.”

Mandrola has advice for fellow physicians who may be intrigued by blogging: “Don’t be afraid. The biggest risk of health care social media is not engaging. Go slowly. Write a few posts but don’t publish them for awhile. I would also recommend posts of no more than 500 words.”

In addition, he recommends two books that he says have helped him immensely: “The Public Physician” by Bryan Vartabedian and “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times” by Roy Peter Clark. “I’ve read both these books two to three times, and I refer to them often,” Mandrola says.

Tapping resources

Reading other physicians’ blogs can provide you and your physicians with frames of reference in terms of content, audience, and writing style.

Mandrola, for example, blogs as Dr. John M, “cardiac electrophysiologist, cyclist, learner.” Besides covering topics like atrial fibrillation, he blogs about exercise and nutrition. His content is likely to be of interest to fellow physicians, patients with heart disease, and health-conscious individuals. His friendly, accessible writing style makes for easy, enjoyable reading.

Dr. Kevin Pho, whom Mandrola mentions, blogs at; his posts can be found under the heading, “Kevin’s Take.” The site itself, founded by Pho in 2004, today includes blog posts by more than 2,000 authors, many of whom are physicians. If you’re looking for different approaches to blogging, peruse the posts at this site.

Seattle Mama Doc is another blog worth checking out. Written by Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, the blog’s tagline is “a mom, a pediatrician, and her insights about keeping your kids healthy.” Swanson’s posts cover a wide range of topics, and she often provides information and advice about childhood illnesses and diseases. But she also addresses societal issues, as in her post, “8 Tips To Support Your Children’s Understanding Of School Violence.”

Incidentally, Seattle Mama Doc led to a book for Swanson, who began blogging tentatively in November 2009. “Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance” by Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2014, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers.

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