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Online support groups

Here’s another story I had published not too long ago: The January cover story in Oncology Net Guide about online support groups for cancer patients and their effect on the practice of oncology.

Those of you who attended either the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco or the more academic Medicine 2.0 Congress in Toronto last fall will recognize some of the names in the story. My family might recognize another name, Dr. Michael Nissenblatt, a cousin on my dad’s side. Hey, if you’ve got a good source, you’d might as well use it.

Among the other familiar names in the story are Dr. Geoffrey Rutledge, whose Wellsphere otherwise a useful consumer information site, had not yet been widely exposed as a marketing scam when I wrote the story, and Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, D.F.A., who offers the Best Commentary Ever about Wikipedia:

Stand up and say it with me: The revolution will not be verified!

March 10, 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.

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.