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It pays to be ethical—and lazy

Like so many other healthcare bloggers, I got an invite last September to become a “featured health blogger” on Wellsphere. I politely declined, citing the need to avoid conflicts of interest that might occur if I associated myself with a health IT vendor.

Like so many other healthcare bloggers, I got an invite one week later to make my blog a “Notable Wellsite” on Wellsphere. Again, I politely declined.

I thought about it a bit more, then reconsidered after coming to believe that Wellsphere was more aggregator than vendor. At the health 2.0 conference in San Francisco last October, I met with Wellsphere CMIO Dr. Geoff Rutledge. Shortly thereafter, Rutledge sent me a personalized e-mail inviting me to join. For some reason, I never followed up.

Then on Thursday I heard that Wellsphere had agreed the day before to be purchased by The HealthCentral Network for an undisclosed sum. I didn’t think much of it until I learned today that a lot of bloggers that joined the Wellsphere network feel duped because apparently they handed over the intellectual property rights of their work to Wellsphere and will not receive a dime from the sale.

Dr. Val Jones of “Getting Better With Dr. Val” and former senior medical director at Revolution Health, asked, “Is this the biggest scam ever pulled on health bloggers?” So far, her post has 43 comments, nearly all of them supportive.

Another health blogger, Dmitriy Kruglyak, suggested that blogger outrage may be so pervasive as to threaten the Wellsphere sale itself. Judging by the commenters on Dr. Val’s site—many health bloggers—there are others feeling equally outraged, but I’m too tired and busy to keep reading.

Actually, here’s one more link: a compendium of Twitter “tweets” to and about Wellsphere. Lots of people have asked for their Wellsphere accounts to be deleted, and the company seems to be complying. One tweet called the company “Slave Drivers.”

Looking back now, there was nothing special receiving one of the original solicitations. The first one started: “I was searching online for the best health bloggers when I discovered your blog at http://clinicalit.blogspot.com/. I want to tell you I think your writing is great.”

That’s the kind of language I normally expect to hear from spam commenters. As in, “I was searching online for the best health bloggers when I discovered your blog at http://clinicalit.blogspot.com/. I want to tell you I think your writing is great,” followed by a totally-out-of-context link to a site that sells discount pills or physician mailing lists. (You don’t ever see such comments appear on this site because I moderate all comments to thwart the spammers.)

In this case, it sure seems like someone is stealing content and perhaps trying to profit off the work of others. Could we be looking at the first health 2.0 Ponzi scheme? Even if we’re not, I’m glad I didn’t take the bait.

January 29, 2009 I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.

Clancy likely to stay at AHRQ

I’ve just learned that staff at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is operating under the assumption that President Obama will choose to retain Dr. Carolyn Clancy as agency director. As a non-political federal employee, Clancy stayed on past Inauguration day, unlike the heads of many other HHS agencies. Although the new president has a right to bring in his own people, the word I’m hearing is that Obama will not change leadership at AHRQ.

Clancy struck me as one of the first people within the federal government to understand the link between IT and quality, and I think it would be foolish to replace her now.

Incidentally, AHRQ stands to be in line for a pretty big expansion. The entire agency’s current budget estimate for fiscal year 2009 is $327.7 million, down from $334.6 million in 2008. But the economic stimulus legislation that the House passed last night gives $1.1 billion to AHRQ, at least according to the version of the bill introduced Monday. The AHRQ language starts on page 134. (As of this writing, the final text of the bill that passed was not online.)

The Senate companion bill, which is pending, calls for the same $1.1 billion appropriation (page 129).

I Written By

I'm a freelance healthcare journalist, specializing in health IT, mobile health, healthcare quality, hospital/physician practice management and healthcare finance.