Anybody who's been to the hospital in Chengdu knows what a drag it can be. Long lines, or worse, no lines at all and a free-for-all rush to get into the doctor's office, little or no privacy, bureaucracy and paperwork and payment systems that baffle even the locals ... but now some of Chengdu's blogging doctors have an alternative.
From the Chengdu Commercial Daily (our translation):
One lives in America. For a long time, his hands have been shaking uncontrollably. The other is a doctor from the Chengdu Military Hospital. His specialty is in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the nervous system. Via his blog, although they are separated by long distances and oceans, they have overturned the traditional confinements of medical practice.
Currently, the Chengdu Military Hospital employs nearly 100 specialists who also offer online consultation in order to provide a better platform through which to answer patients' questions. Word on the street is that the Chengdu Military Hospital is now considering a "Blog Hospital" project.
On the afternoon of Feb. 25, Chengdu Military Hospital Department of Nervous System Disorders. When the American David enters department head Wang Qingsong's office, it already seems that the two are old acquaintances. Even though it's the first time the two have met, they have already been corresponding for several months through Dr. Wang's blog.
It turns out that David is a "son-in-law " of Chengdu. At home in the Chengdu Hi-Tech Zone, it was Ms. Du who got to know the American David via the Internet. In 2004, after she married David, the pair decided to live in the U.S. In January of last year, the 70-year-old David's hands started shaking uncontrollably. The family doctor examined him numerous times but could not diagnose the cause of the trembling. Seeing that her husband's shaking hands were getting worse and worse, Ms. Du turned to the Internet for help. Wang Qingsong's blog caught her attention and gained David's trust. With Ms. Du translating, David left messages on Dr. Wang's blog, describing his condition and current medications. He quickly received a response from Dr. Wang.
Although it was impossible to make a final diagnosis over the Internet, Dr. Wang was able to suggest a number of ways to improve David's condition, and they set a date to meet this year in order to examine David more thoroughly.
That afternoon, these two unlikely "'net buddies" finally met and under Dr. Wang's direction, David received a series of examinations. According to Dr. Wang, David's shaking hands isn't due to Parkinson's disease but the distortion of the limb, which can be corrected by surgery.
"This is already the third time that I have made acquaintance with a foreign patient due to the blog!" said Dr. Wang. At the end of 2007, he had started a blog, and the entire department of doctors participated in its maintenance. The blog offered tips on staying healthy and also offered a forum in which patients seeking medical advice could ask questions. The blog has been up for three years, contains mountains of information, and receives millions of hits.
As it turns out, Wang Qingsong is only specialist at the Chengdu Military Hospital who's also a star blogger. The blog of hospital's director of marketing Zhang Hujun received an "Outstanding Creative Space" title during the First National Science Blog Awards.
His blog has already received over 10 million visits.
In April 2007, Zhang Hujun started his blog on Sohu. In the beginning, Zhang published a series of essays about the medical-engineering field but mysteriously the blog saw no traffic. A short time later, Zhang Hujun revived the blog with "My Story," and the visitors, medical-school castaways, swarmed in to discuss their own stories.
Zhang Hujun started to get a taste of sweet success. Through his blog he's met no small number of literary friends. And it was due to the concern of his blog-buddies that Zhang even changed his lifestyle: Every day he gets up one hour early to ensure that he'll have time to make a new blog post for the day. "If I don't update, a reader will call me to complain!," said Zhang.
Not long after the 2008 earthquake, Zhang Hujun posted news of the hospital's food and water shortage on his blog and immediately received a huge response. Within a month, the hospital was receiving daily donations of bottled water and instant noodles from all corners of the city.
Taking advantage of this period of high traffic, Zhang Hujun returned to his "regular job" of posting health tips. He settled arguments, posted essays about foreign popular science, and dispensed advice on how to stay fit, all in straightforward language. His down-to-earth style garnered lots of fans; one essay titled "It's Possible to Be Poisoned by Drinking Water" received over 300,000 views.
At the same time, Zhang Hujun's blog was a platform for asking and answering medical questions. "The blog can both serve patients and allow me to exercise my writing abilities," said Zhang. Because of this, Zhang Hujun was awarded the "Sohu Blogs 10 Most Popular Doctors of 2008" and a 2008 title from CCTV commending him for his blog's wealth of information.
According to Chengdu Military Hospital president Gu Jianwen, nearly 100 of the hospital's specialists blog, including many top-level specialists. Gu himself is the hospital's pioneer blogger.
He started his blog on Sohu in 2006, documenting the surgeries he performed, explaining the patients' illnesses, and offering online consultation to patients.
A year after Gu Jianwen started his blog, he had received over 1 million visits. Many of his visitors were patients with difficult-to-diagnose brain disease; after receiving online consultation, they would visit him at the hospital. In order to better serve patients, Gu Jianwen suggested that all of the hospital's specialists start blogs and update them regularly. Doctors who are particularly busy with patients or are unfamiliar with computers are assigned trainees to assist them in blogging.
Gu Jianwen finds time in his schedule to update his blog late at night and early in the morning.
Gu revealed yesterday that the Chengdu Military Hospital will create a "Blog Hospital" for all doctors on the Internet to blog on, each with a fixed online/live chat time in order to provide detailed consultation to hesitant patients.
EDIT: 3/8: Mistranslation (see comments) corrected.