Monday, April 30, 2007

Notes from the Healthcare Blogging Summit: Open Healthcare Panel

It's 10:30 AM and only 25 people are in the room -- approximately half of them are presenters. It seems that blogging is an East Coast phenom!

The first panel in the morning addressed open healthcare issues for corporations. The panel participants included:

  • Matthew Holt, The Healthcare Blog
  • Nicholas Jacobs, Windber Medical Center and Research Institute
  • Elisa Cooper, Whistleblower, formerly with Kaiser Permanente (see "Kaiser Permanente sues blogger over patient information")
  • Bob Coffield, Flaherty, Sensbaugh & Bonasso
  • Moderator: Dmitriry Kruglyak, TrustedMD
I guess this is about how corporations cab manage and minimize crises created by blogs, like Question Authority vs. Astrazeneca.

Bob of the Health Care Law Blog summarized some of the legal issues.

Lawyers love the brave new world of blogging and open healthcare, said Bob.

Blogger Law 101
What bloggers should be aware of. Includes copyright and use of trademarks; asserting and defending defamation (libel/slander); can you be held liable for comments published on your blog? liability for publishing private facts with no legitimate public purpose (especially important in healthcare); employees rights to blog (public employees have more rights); "whistle-blogging (protecting employees who reveal illegal acts by employers); blogging the violates company policy (blogging policies are becoming more prevalent).

Corporate approach to blogging: should be treated similar to email; protect business secrets, "be nice."

Role Playing Exercise
A blogger breaks news that is potentially damaging to a hospital -- Lisa will play that role. How would a hospital CEO respond, general counsel. Dmitriry is a reporter.

How does the CEO feel about it? because of regulation, healthcare companies try to "stay under the radar" rather than deal with issues with candor and full disclosure (ie, transparency).

Note: Several panel members suggested scenarios involving Matthew Holt as in "suppose Matthew is a disgruntled employee and decides to..." or "suppose Matthew is ripping off your copyright material ..."

Elisa suggested that someone may become an "aggressive" blogger because they don't have access to lawyers and other resources that the corporation has at its disposal. But sometimes, bloggers (eg, Peter Rost) has access to both blogs and lawyers. It's an issue that may involve the "digital divide" that Jay Bernhardt discussed. As more disenfranchised people gain access to blogging, there may be a lot more bloggers that are aggressive towards the corporate healthcare industry, especially patients who were "wronged" or employees that see their organizations engaged in questionable, if not illegal, practices.

Journalism vs. Blogging
"From a reporter's perspective," said Dmitriry, "blogs are a great source for stories." He used Lisa' blog attacks against Kaiser Permanente as an example. He suggested the truism: Don't do anything that would not want to see reported in the Wall Street Journal. I would change that these days to: don't do anything you would like to see in the blogosphere! Astrazeneca's Zubillaga Affair is an excellent example. It was Peter Rost who "broke" the story, not the WSJ. And Astrazeneca had to react to his revelations, not a story in the WSJ.

The press has "buckets of ink," said Jacobs, "we don't go after them or write letters to the Editor." But bloggers don't need no stinkin' ink! They have "buckets of bits" and access to Youtube as well!

Bob suggested that the less moderation of comments you do, the less liable you are, legally even though the law has recently changed to give the same rights to bloggers as ISPs with regard to comments. Dmitriry suggests that you moderate comments, you should have a policy that explains how comments are moderated in every case.

My panel is next (I will talk about the Pharma Blogosphere Survey). So, I won't be able to blog about that in real time.

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