Research article: Inside the Health Blogosphere: Quality, Governance and the New Innovation Leaders
Neil Seeman has published an interesting article in the Electronic Healthcare journal under the title “Inside the Health Blogosphere: Quality, Governance and the New Innovation Leaders“.
His goals were:
- to assess the degree to which information postings on health blogs were expert moderated, potentially influenced by industry sponsorship (both drug industry and general industry sponsorship) or influenced by other factors, notably political partisanship
- to assess the degree to which blogs protected users’ personal health
- to compare the degree to which popular health blogs published and commented on clinically relevant news as compared with popular Canadian newspapers
Neil identified the 100 most popular English-language health blogs and reviewed the top 50 according to his blog governance algorithm. Using Alexa he also calculated the three month average traffic rank for each blog.
|Blog governance scoring algorithm|
|Criterion of Interest||Maximum points possible|
|Moderated by trained clinicians/SMEs related to the topic (e.g., a diabetes nurse educator in the case of a diabetes-focused blog); all SME credentials were determined by reviewing editor/author biographies posted on the blog site||2|
|Lack of general industry sponsorship (as demonstrated through advertisement on home page)||2|
|Lack of drug industry sponsorship (as demonstrated through advertisement on home page)||2|
|Prominently displayed code (either on the home page or linked from the home page) making users confident in the privacy protection offered to users of the blog (e.g., HONcode principles displayed)||2|
|Lack of political or plainly partisan editorializing by editor on drug topics or health policy topics||2|
|Number of the top 10 medical stories of 2007 posted (and discussed in blog-threaded discussions)||10|
- More than 90% of examined health blogs have no drug industry sponsorship or overt partisanship that is readily detectable by the user. Sixty percent of the most popular health blogs are moderated partially or fully by experts, usually practicing clinicians. Around 45% of the health blogs offer users clear confidence regarding the privacy of user-submitted content.
- Major Canadian newspapers (on average) covered 37% of what clinical experts considered critically important medical news in 2007. The most popular 50 health blogs, on average, covered just 23% of these stories. However, general interest blogs fare at least as well as and usually significantly better than general interest newspapers in reporting critical medical stories.
- Most popular blogs are not those that are all things to all people.
- Expert moderation has a positive difference to the quality of health blogs regarding governance and user popularity.
The author proposes a strategic framework for a long lasting patient centered blog which suggests that, beyond the good governance practices, content accountability and journalistic best practices are important.
Inside the health blogosphere: quality, governance and the new innovation leaders. Seeman N. Healthc Q. 2009;12:99-106.