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Profiles in Oncology Social Media: Douglas Blayney, MD, ASCO President

Butcher, Lola

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000381217.07687.60
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First Blog:

Douglas Blayney, M.D.’s Page: at ASCO Oncology EHR site.

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Personal Blog Bio:

“I am a medical oncologist and Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I also serve as President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), a 27,000-member professional society for oncologists (though posts and thoughts contained here are mine, and don't necessarily represent positions of ASCO).”

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Blog Beginnings:

“ASCO started the EHR website with the goal of getting members more involved with sharing their experiences with electronic health records. ASCO sees this as a pilot, and we chose electronic health records as a first topic because we thought the EHR user community would be more receptive to the technology than other ASCO members.

“That is what prompted me to start blogging and thinking about content. As I was using our electronic health record here at University of Michigan, I would have observations that are not worthy of formal scientific publication, but might be helpful to others because they are anecdotes from a real user. Sometimes I would post photographs in the blog and describe the content around them.



“It was sort of fun, and when I would go visit people, I started writing about what I saw and how they used their EHRs in their own practices to facilitate patient care and measure quality.”

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Why a Second Blog?



“I wanted to start writing about things other than electronic health records. When I find interesting articles on the practice of oncology or policy articles—or when ASCO publishes a statement or sends a letter to Congress or the regulatory agencies—I often post them on my personal blog. I also find it interesting living in a small college town in the Midwest, so I post some of my writings and observations about Ann Arbor.”

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And More Blogs to Come?

“ASCO also has other sites that we hope to launch soon. One of them is meant for the practice committee. And we are contemplating starting one for QOPI—the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative—participants, and we might have others as time develops.”

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Who Reads Him?

“The EHR audience is oncologists and the people who support them in their practice, whether it is in an academic setting or in their office setting.

“For my own personal blog, I'm finding my way. I don't have a clear audience in mind. I use the blog as a catalog of interesting readings that I've come across, and I also use it perhaps as a first draft of papers that I might write some time, a first draft of ideas that I may string together in various papers or opinion pieces in the future.”

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Who He Reads:

“I read The Health Care Blog ( occasionally, and I read some political blogs. But mostly I tend to be of my generation and read the typical medical literature.”

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Time Commitment:

“My schedule right now does not permit a regular posting schedule, and I don't have the energy to devote to it right now. Each post takes about an hour or two. Some of that time is fiddling with the formatting because I do all the formatting myself (for the personal blog).”

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Advice to Would-Be Bloggers:

“I chose Blogspot ( because it was easy to get started and the formatting was appealing to me. I just picked out a template and off I went.

“As for content, the best rule is show, don't tell. Be brief and write things that you would enjoy reading. It's just like generating patient care consults. My view is that long consults do not get read, so be short, to the point, and almost telegraphic.”

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Fan Feedback:

“Often comments and responses to my blog post come by private e-mail to me. When I get that, I encourage the authors to post comments on the blog site. I do not receive an extraordinary number of comments, but when I meet people, they often seem to have read my blog posts.”

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Other Social Media:

“I joined LinkedIn ( a few months ago to keep track of my professional colleagues I've met along the way. Two weeks ago when my wife started on a long trip with our daughter, she started a Facebook account, and I joined her so I could see the photographs they posted on their three-week journey to the Middle East.”

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Blogging How-to

Although there are dozens of blog applications to choose from, WordPress ( and Blogger ( are among the most popular for non-professional bloggers. Both offer free blogsites, and they make it easy to get started.

At WordPress, click on “Sign Up Now” and at Blogger, click “Create a Blog.” Fill out the form and, moments later, you will be a blogger.

While the technology end of blogging can be amazingly simple, the content can be a little trickier. In a post titled “10 Things I Wish I Knew and Did Before I Started Blogging” (, blogger Robert Bravery encourages would-be bloggers to spend some time thinking about their blogging life before they start typing.

Two decisions to make: what you will write about, and why you are writing about that topic.

“There is nothing more frustrating as a reader than a blog which does not fit anywhere,” he writes. “You have to choose a niche. Your niche can be as wide as you like or as narrow as you like. But stick to the general theme of that niche.”



Decision #2 is identifying what you want to achieve with the blog: Do you want to spread knowledge about some aspect of your medical specialty to the largest possible audience—or do you want a place to connect online with a handful of colleagues whose work you admire? Do you hope to position yourself as a leading thinker in your field? Are you trying to raise the visibility of your practice? Get more attention for your research?

Bravery advises to set short-term and long-term goals for your blog at the outset: “If you don't have goals for your blog, then there is nothing to strive for, nothing to attain. Sure, your goals can and might change over time. But you need to have a goal before you start.”

He also recommends researching blogging tips posted on the dozens of blogs about blogging. That is good advice—but be careful. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the crush of information and opinions about blogging.

Good places to start: Blogging Basics at Daily Blog Tips ( and the New to Blogging section at Build a Better Blog (


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