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Optometrists and Blogging

on February 5th, 2007 | Filed under Optoblog

Note: This is a little essay that I wrote for a competition. I didn’t win, probably because it was more of a rant than an actual essay. So, here it is. Take it for what it’s worth.

I am an optometric physician. I began blogging when my friend, Josh Bancroft of tinyscreenfuls.com, introduced me to it in October of 2004. I soon caught the vision of RSS and blogs, and finally started my own at optoblog.com. I had intended it to be the start of something: optometrists blogging about all things eye doctor and also giving feedback to the ophthalmic product industry. Unfortunately, no one else bothered to join the conversation (at least publicly, but more about that later). Why are there not more optometrists, or for that matter other medical professionals, blogging?

The ophthalmic industry knows about blogging and even podcasting. Acuvue contact lenses had a miserable but thankfully short-lived podcast aimed at teenage girl consumers. Dryeyeblog.com is written by a doctor of one ophthalmic drug company who refutes the research of another ophthalmic drug company. But most blogs are short lived, or at least infrequently updated like Practicemanagementblog.com and Optometric Office Design News. It seems that organizations in the industry heard something along the lines of Scoble’s book which preaches blogging will make your business grow drastically, they tried it out for a while, it probably didn’t bring in the big returns, and so they abandoned their blog.

It could be their fault, but then again, are there any eye doctors out there listening? Optometrists are traditionally slow adopters when it comes to technology. Apparently the people at Standard Optical haven’t even heard of a remarkable device called a door for their exam room (they use curtains). Have you ever been to some optical shop, and the equipment looked like it was older than your parents? It probably was. Now try to get these doctors to pay attention to what is being said on the internet.

But there are some optometrists that are net savvy, but what are they doing? They finally caught on to bulletin boards. The biggest one I know of is ODwire; however, membership is exclusive. They don’t want their conversations to be seen by the general public. They think it’s a secret that doctors actually want to make money, so they don’t share with the world their suggestions with each other on how to grow their business. They complain about ophthalmic product companies, but can ophthalmic product companies join the private board? I think so, but I don’t know of more than one. I think the secrecy and exclusive membership choke the conversation.

The only other optometrist that I know of who blogs faithfully doesn’t even blog about optometry. She blogs about knitting and has 120 Bloglines subscribers! There are a couple optometry school student (oppie) bloggers. The new oppies are more with it in terms of blogging, but they could do so much more. During the 4th year while out on preceptorship, there is a required 4 week correspondence class. The teacher actually uses the internet to bring together students from all over the country and give one online clinical case presentation each; but what about blogging? Imagine if the only requirement of the class was that you maintain a year round blog about interesting cases you see. Instead of enlightening a small group with just one case report, you could discuss multiple cases with the entire class! Imagine school sanctioned blogging! Think of all the information we could learn.

But that’s another problem. Everyone is afraid of lawsuits. What if the information we share with each other gets us in trouble? I think that’s why more medical professionals don’t blog. They don’t want to be accused of dispensing medical advice to someone for whom it wasn’t intended. Imagine a doctor distilling the virtues of anti-oxidant vitamins, so a person happens upon the blog entry and decides to take them…particularly vitamin A…in megadoses…and dies because the person smokes like a chimney.

In treating a patient, we doctors like to get paid so we can pay for malpractice insurance premiums which covers the risk of treating patients. We don’t get paid for blogging. The last thing we need is the family of some chain-smoking gramma from a different state to sue us out of business.

Aside from medical-condition-related content, what about conversing regarding the ophthalmic product industry? If more optometrists would blog about vendors publically, then maybe the corporations would know how to make their product better. I’ve written reviews of certain products marketed towards eye doctors, like electronic health record (EHR) and practice management (PIM) software, and a VIP from the company responded to my blog entry. These vendors must be surfing around looking for comments about them because I didn’t contact most of them. I am terribly dismayed by PIM/EHR shortcomings and the lack of features that I desire, but at least they have an ear out. But what annoys me about the vendors is most would choose to respond to me offline, well…e-mail. So instead of everyone seeing their counterpoints, only I could read it.

I wish the ophthalmic vendors themselves would start blogs. I would like to read about what they are working on next instead of waiting for a convention or a biased review in an industry rag. I would like to hear from the horse’s mouth why I should use their current products, and it would be nice to know who these people are in the first place. Industry rags have a virtual monopoly on ophthalmic product information dissemination. Blogs could shift the balance of power, but only if optometrists ever get savvy enough to figure out how to use a feed aggregator.

But even if the vendors did start blogging, I worry it would be short lived or just considered a cool new way to advertise. A blog should be viewed like having a telephone: just one more needed way to communicate with people. It’s not the savior, be all and end all of a marketing plan. It is one more useful tool of communication.

So why do I blog? I admit that I haven’t been blogging a lot on my optoblog.com website. I have shifted most of my blogging to my practice website with an audience of potential and current patients. My blog intended for other optometrists and vendors has petered out because, quite frankly, I don’t think anyone is listening. If an eye doctor is walking alone in a forest and stubs his toe, does he cuss up a blue streak? Maybe, but if no one is paying attention, then why make a big fuss? When an audience isn’t there, it takes a lot of internal motivation to keep blogging. I don’t do it for therapy. I was hoping to be part of a conversation, but the problem is all the conversations seem to be behind closed doors (or bulletin boards).


3 Responses to “Optometrists and Blogging”

  1. Bethany says:

    Hi– optometric knitting blogger here.

    I think the challenge (at least for me) in blogging about optometry is the public nature of a blog. I can’t blog funny stories about my patients (oh can you believe this dumbass covered both eyes!?!) — because my patients could potentially read the blog– I could blog some pathology, but the audience for that is pretty limited, and besides, the topic is fairly boring.

    The blog that rolls around in my head, but never made it to keyboard is a business-owner blog, chronicling the daily challenges and highlights of owning an optometric practice. Unfortunately, most of these challenges for me anyway involve staff people & although I generally believe that honesty is the best policy, I don’t know that I want our staff people & patients to have access to my rants.

    So, I stick to knitting, and with a new baby in the house, I barely have time to update that!

    You may want to check out Adventures of a New Optometrist http://odgirl1201.blogspot.com/index.html. She blogs about her experience in commercial practice (among other things)… but I warn you, she reports she just started knitting 🙂

    BTW, I totally disagree with your last post… I LOVE private practice & know that I’m providing something my patients can’t get elsewhere. I’m just trying to come up with something eloquent enough to be considered “compelling.”


  2. […] originally wrote my lamentation on how few optometrist bloggers are out there are back in November 2006. I’ve since been made aware that there are a few more […]