Show Your True Identity: Why You Should Stay Away From Anonymous Blogging

A few months ago I wrote about several of my favorite healthcare blogs, highlighting the fact that storytelling is a big part of what makes a healthcare blog successful.

Since then I’ve stumbled across several more healthcare blogs, including one called “Anonymous Doc,” written by a doctor who remains genderless and nameless in a nameless city and nameless hospital. The blog is a collection of anecdotes and stories about what this doctor encounters on his or her rotation.

When I read his or her posts, I can’t help but feel that the Anonymous Doctor blog is the type that causes healthcare professionals to be wary of physician blogs. While the author doesn’t reveal a real location or even real patient names, he or she does write about very personal details related to caring for patients, and if you happened to know anyone the Anonymous Doctor wrote about, you could probably identify the patients described.

As a funny coincidence, Dr. Brian Vartabedian wrote a blog today about physician anonymity in social media in his blog, 33 charts, and he wrote about it once before. In his blog post titled “Doctors Shouldn’t Be Socially Anonymous,” he lists six reasons why physicians should write using their true identity. I won’t repeat them all here, but I will say that I especially agree with his point that anonymity soils credibility.

Storytelling is an essential element to health care blogging because it personalizes content and it shows the compassionate side of the author. That’s one reason I enjoy reading Wendy Sue Swanson’s blog, Seattle Mama Doc, and am captivated by Kimberly Manning’s blog, Reflections of a Grady Doc. Both use personal experiences, family and work-related, to drive the content of their blog, which in turn creates useful, educational, compassionate and moving content that not only reflects positively on them as human beings, but also as physicians and ultimately, the hospital that employs them.

And with anonymity you just can’t have that.

I will say however, that what I do appreciate about the Anonymous Doctor blog is that his or her insights about patients are appropriate, important, and often profound. But when blogging anonymously, those insights become less effective because that doctor is not held accountable for what he or she says. When we are responsible for what we say, we are generally a lot more careful. I can’t help but feel that if this Anonymous Doc decided to take ownership of the blog that it would be an incredibly useful and effective tool instead of a platform on which to rant.

By nature, social media is about transparency and sharing. That’s why I encourage all hospitals to discuss the risks of anonymous blogging with physicians and to discourage it. Because when a blog is anonymous, it loses credibility, no matter how profound the content may be.

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3 replies
  1. Kimberly Manning aka gradydoctor
    Kimberly Manning aka gradydoctor says:

    Hi Kelly! Listen, thanks a lot for the kind shout out and for this post. Honestly, I struggled with the whole anonymity question at the beginning. I asked myself questions like, “Do I say my real name?” or “Is it bad to have real picture of myself and my family on something so public?” I even wondered if I never should have used the word “Grady” in the title at all. I decided back then that staying anonymous would just be too much work. In this crazy world, people who are determined to do crazy things will anyway. At least that’s what I tell myself. As far as how the hospital and my institution has felt about it, it’s been refreshingly wonderful. They could not be more supportive, really. And to think that my whole plan was to ask for forgiveness later instead of permission first!

    Your words mean so much because they validate what many folks like me wonder when they lay it all out there. My goal was and still is to humanize my patients, most of whom are indigent and underserved, and then to show a real side to balancing work and life as a physician. I am moved to know that at least one person gets that.

    Thank you again.

    Kimberly Manning, MD

    Reply
  2. DrV
    DrV says:

    Thanks for the mention, Kelly. I like to suggest that the anonymous guys are anonymous because they’re not actually practicing physicians. Drives ‘em nuts.

    Reply

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