Walking the Fine Line Between Fact and Opinion in Physician-Authored Writing

March 29, 2017

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

Lisa D. EllisCircus performers who walk the tightrope receive extensive training to prevent falls. But medical personnel who represent their health care organizations are often much less savvy about how to avoid taking a misstep when they enter the complex world of social media. As a result, health systems can suffer some serious consequences if they don’t make the time to establish some formal boundaries up-front.

Physician Blogs Have Pros and Cons

Physician-contributed writing provides a great way to provide thought leadership and to share your medical staff members’ expertise more broadly. It can also help to personalize your organization and make a deeper connection with patients. But it’s essential that any staff-contributed writing goes through a defined editorial process that ensures the content accurately represents your system’s views and what it stands for, points out James Gabriel Brown, principal/chief creative officer of Columbus, Ohio-based advertising firm LaineGabriel.

When Controversy Strikes

out James Gabriel Brown, principal/chief creative officer at LaineGabriel

James Gabriel Brown, principal/chief creative officer at LaineGabriel

While many health systems have become the leading sources for quality information, it’s important that any information they provide is based on the latest respected medical research. Further, there’s always the danger that a system can step into a gray area when their medical staff members move beyond facts to offer their opinion, especially when that view may not represent the organization’s value system.

The importance of health systems differentiating between fact and opinion came into the limelight recently when a Cleveland Clinic doctor published a blog on Cleveland.com under the auspices of the organization’s affiliation, sharing his personal views about vaccines and calling into question their safety for young children. This can serve as a reminder for the organizations to establish formal editorial processes to ensure all material slated for publication meets their defined mission and goals.

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