The phenomenon that is medical blogging receives coverage in today's LA Times. The reporter, Marianne Szegedy-Maszak, chose to focus on physician blogs, but that's ok, what with me now being a physician and all. My Medgadget colleagues, Dr. O and Dr. Bradley, are also featured.

And I like how she introduces the topic:

The family pictures on the desk. The diplomas on the wall. A few magazine subscriptions, perhaps, or some sailing, tennis or golf memorabilia scattered around the office. In the past, a curious patient could only turn to these bits of evidence to try to know more about the individual behind the medical degrees, the white coat and the carefully scripted bedside manner.

The temptation is understandable. After all, when someone holds your life in his or her hands, it would be nice to know a bit more about what makes them tick. But today, anyone with an Internet connection can have access to the fevered, funny, angry and very human thoughts of these men and women who help us navigate the perilous shoals between illness and health. The vehicle? The doctor's blog. A blog is the name used to describe a weblog, the constantly updated platform for the idiosyncratic and highly personal musings (or rantings) of anyone who wants to set one up in cyberspace.

"It's a direct line to see what doctors think that you won't pick up in the office or from television shows," says Michael Ostrovsky, a cardiac anesthesiologist in Daly City, Calif...

I'm consistently surprised about what makes it into the final version of a story. For instance, the reporter and I were discussing how bloggers discover each other, how we cross-reference posts. Sure, there's, and now Grand Rounds (which she graciously acknowledged). I also mentioned one post which really seemed to put me on the map last year -- "Hard to Swallow", a pun-laden critique of a Austrian nose-picking advocate.

Well, very little of the conversation about blog cross-linking and meme propagation made it into print. But, naturally, my views on nose-picking are prominently excerpted in the sidebar (in stark contrast to the really insightful quotes from Dr. Charles, the Cheerful Oncologist, and others -- I suppose it's appropriate that the print debut of "Dr. Nicholas Genes" is a little... juvenile).

At any rate, the article provides a good survey of doctor blogging, and the various motivations behind it. And the reporter leaves her readers (and interviewees) with some good questions: will blogging improve the doctor-patient relationship? Will it help disseminate medical data amongst peers? Will it "spawn the next Oliver Sacks?"

I've tried to be cognizant of the risks in believing our hype, of overestimating the potential of medical blogs. So it's exciting to hear an outside reporter asking these questions. And I look forward to learning the answers, in the coming years.