Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Why I Blog

I suppose anyone who has embarked on this strange undertaking called a “Web Log” or “blog” has asked themselves this question: why blog? I have been at this for almost a year now, and I now find myself asking the question: what am I trying to do here?

I have to thank Dr. Helen, first of all, for exposing me to the blog-o-sphere. I was introduced to her after my website was barraged by hits from her blog after she posted a picture of herself with one of our t-shirts. Somehow the slogan, "Death, Been There, Done That" got people's attention. So I e-mailed her and she was gracious enough to share her story about her undiagnosed heart disease with me and gave me permission to post the story on our site as an noteworthy example of an underappreciated problem in women: heart disease. I am forever grateful to her for this. But unbeknownst to me at the time, Helen is the wife if the infamous Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame, one of the earlier blogs on the internet with exceptionally high traffic. I was fascinated by Glenn's "Army of Davids" concept, and was hooked. But how to start?

Each of us tries to find a voice. Some make short, brief entries. Others make long, detailed discussions with extensive cross-references. Some blog entries extend over several days. Some post daily, some only sporatically. Others post photos, some only text. Networking and a social exchange is important to some, so comments are permitted, while others discourage commentary. The topics are as varied as the individuals and personalities on this planet. So why did I join the fray?

To me, the internet is an incredible forum to discuss the varied, complicated, and even (especially?) the ridiculous aspects of health care. Information moves so quickly now that keeping abreast of changes has become difficult. The number of medical journals have expanded so dramatically in my short career that it is challenging to keep up with the voluminous information flow. Thanks to the wonders of “RSS (Really Simple Syndication),” I have found that blogging has permitted me to stay abreast of thoughts and trends in medicine far better that I ever could with reading a small sampling of my field’s literature. (I mean, there are so many journals and so little time!) As I delve ever-deeper in the electronic cosmos, I have stumbled upon some remarkable insights and perspectives from my fellow blogging colleagues, many of whom are much more eloquent at prose than me. Dr. Charles comes to mind as does Dr. Grumet. And Kevin, where DO you get all those feeds? But I could go an and on, not just about doctors, but nurses, administrators, and patients, too. Each of us adds our own unique insights to the collective Medical Zeitgeist. I think we doctors, nurses, patients, politicians, and Big Business interests are better for it.

I am a nerd at heart. I love things electronic and technical. As a biomedical engineer in college, I suppose I have grown to miss my engineering “inner self.” But my fields of cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology have allowed me to experience a unique intersection between engineering and medicine that continues to grow. I feel I can lend some unique commentary to this aspect of medicine. But I also acknowledge I have missed other aspects of my inner self in my relentless pursuit for a medical degree: writing, music, art, and a million other things. So with this blog I hope to expand on a few of these interests as well.

Within the medical device industry, innovation has also occurred at an incredibly rapid rate. Communicating this doctor’s opinion to the large corporations had heretofore been impossible. But now, post a criticism or complement on your blog, and (thanks to Google Alert) the company reads your comments with their morning coffee or while perusing the Google finance page. The little guy matters on the web.

And this blog speaks to the little guy, too. I find more and more patients, caregivers, and others turn to the internet for medical information. This information is often discretely carried to their appointments with me. This is a good thing, I believe. While the internet might not always be the best or most reliable source of health care information, it empowers the patient to take responsiblity regarding their concerns, or at least identify questions to ask their doctor. I find that patients who have consulted “Dr. Google” before I see them usually ask really smart questions. One thing is certain: everyone feels better if they’ve done their pre-health-care-visit homework, and blogs are a unique venue for exposure to a variety of expertise and experiences. On occasion, patients do get it wrong, however. So I always ask that individuals who find information here to discuss it with their own doctor before acting on any advice or commentary I dispense. Your situation might be special.

Finally, this blog forms a written diary about me, my life, my concerns and thoughts for my family, friends, patients, health care and device industry, and colleagues. The views are solely my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer (I love my job, really). While it might reference an experience with a patient or colleague, rest assured the names, circumstances, and identities will forever be held confidential. My intent is not to denigrate, but inform. Constructive commentary and criticisms add unique perspectives, so I have chosen to include them. It is through these collaborative discussions we learn and grow. My patients give me an incredible gift of confidence when they open their hearts and minds to me, and for that I am forever grateful and respectful. Hopefully, this blog will serve as a place to give back to them a portion of what they have given me.



Moof said...

Dr. Wes, we're all just glad that you're blogging! ;o)

Jordan said...

Thanks for your complement...I read you everyday...don't sell yourself short you have a way with words!

Helen said...

Thanks Dr. Wes--I am so glad you took up blogging--so many of us need help with our hearts and it's good to know you are here.

Gottafang said...

Welcome to the 'sphere, Dr. Wes. I'm sort of new to it myself. My wife had been nudging me toward creating a blog for three years before I finally made one. She would say how well I write, how funny I am (sometimes), all that other buttery-up stuff, but I would always balk.

One day a few weeks ago I got into my rarely-used GMail account and saw the Blogger link and thought "Why not."

And just to keep this in your specialty: my dad is 83 years old, has had a quintuple bypass, angina, a stent put into his carotid artery, suffers from Type II diabetes, yet he's still able to mow the lawn, travel around town to see his old friends, and get on my mom's nerves with his bad jokes and other nonsense.

Maria Palma said...

Dr. Wes,

I commend you on starting a blog to communicate with patients and share your thoughts and experiences with the community. As a person who believes in customer service, I think it's important to get to know the people you help you - especially for health caregivers.

cathy said...

I, for one, am very happy you started blogging.

Vicki Small said...

"writing, music, art, and a million other things"--Have you discovered Dr. Bob, at DocIsIn? I think you would find a kindred spirit, there, as he explores and expresses his own multiple facets.

Sid Schwab said...

I guess I'm newer to the game than you. Like you, I find many reasons to do it, and to have found it in the first place. I tell myself I'm educating and entertaining readers, and that I'm finding a sort of creative outlet. It may be simply that it's fun to be in the company of thoughtful people. You included.

Dr. A said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I had similar thoughts when I considered starting to blog, and then eventually started blogging. Keep up the great work!

serket said...

I started a movie blog on August 19, 2006. I try to post daily if I can. I have really enjoyed Dr. Helen's blog and it gave me the desire to start my own.

SeaSpray said...

I enjoyed this post and identify with it greatly.

I just wish I could write as well as you and others.

If I hadn't gotten sick...I probably still wouldn't know the blogosphere existed. Blogging is definitely one of the good things that has come out of it...although I know I have probably done some damage to circulation in lower extremities from sitting so long in one position. Time really flies when writing and reading in the blogs and I just forget to move around. :)

Definitely one of the best hobbies!

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Thank you