This is an interesting slideshow on medical blogging, but many of the comments are just as apt for science blogging too:
On a related theme, the recent Pew report raised some interesting statistics:
"61% of American adults look online for health information."
I'm only surprised it was as low as 61%. When asked:
• 86% of all adults ask a health professional, such as a doctor.
• 68% of all adults ask a friend or family member.
• 57% of all adults use the internet.
• 54% use books or other printed reference material.
• 33% contact their insurance provider.
• 5% use another source not mentioned in the list."
Overall, 37% of adults, or 60% of e-patients, have done at least one of the above activities. But what of social networking sites? Typically, they were used sparingly for health enquiries or updates, according to the Pew Report, but it wasn't clear how they defined social networking. In the same breath, the report noted that:
• 41% of e-patients have read someone else's commentary or experience about health or medical issues on an online news group, website, blog.
• 24% of e-patients have consulted rankings or reviews online of doctors or other providers.
• 24% of e-patients have consulted rankings or reviews online of hospitals or other medical facilities.
• 19% of e-patients have signed up to receive updates about health or medical issues.
• 13% of e-patients have listened to a podcast about health or medical issues."
Blogs by most people's definition would probably come under social media, but likely Pew are referring to platforms such as MySpace, Facebook, etc when then mention social media.
One of the things I've noticed in business is that people buy from people; what Rory Murray has described as ROR, or Return on Relationships. In other words, you are more likely to do business with someone you like, trust and respect. The same goes for online interactions – trust in the form of trusted media or trusted links becomes the new currency. As new tools such as Twitter become more widely used, we will likely see a subtle change in how and where people find and seek information via their trusted network of contacts.
This is an inevitable shift as the internet moves towards a more open web, where information is freely traded, but the reputation and earned currency still must be earned, whether you are sharing information about science, medicine or indeed, any form of information. This applies to professionals such as physicians as well as to organisations such as Pharma and Biotech companies. In this day and age authority is simply not taken for granted any more.