Updated: Apr 27
Misinformation (also called Disinformation), or the spread of false and inaccurate knowledge, has always been a problem in human lives. Nevertheless, its prevalence has increased since social media and various digital communication platforms were introduced.
Dispersion of misinformation is almost always intentional and often sparks deception among its receivers. That can be detrimental to the sovereignty of the willing individuals to accept its content.
Patient care and medical practice is neither stranger to the world of misinformation. That is particularly true for the new generation of millennials and Generation Z, who rely highly on the technology and utility of social media for medical information.
Indeed, social media-related misinformation is the contemporary variant of an old problem with a kick.
Social media has made spreading false information more efficient and fast, enabling the spread of good-quality facts.
According to a report published by J Med Internet Res., the spread of misinformation on Twitter and issues associated with smoking products and drugs seems to be the highest. However, no social media platform is immune from being affected by some form of misinformation.
Addressing misinformation is becoming more necessary with the increasing endorsement of patient engagement, empowerment, trust, and reliance on digital technology. Such critical highlights the significance of improving health literacy amongst patients.
Medical misinformation is the byproduct of health literacy failure. That is dangerous to patients and undermines the already failing healthcare delivery. By default, it will lead to a physician practice overburden, a healthcare resource encumbrance, and increased healthcare costs.
An even more devastating effect of misinformation is the notion of “misinformed patient empowerment.”
One can only imagine the consequences that an active yet wrong lifestyle can have on your life if you trust the wrong source of information.
The Public Distrust of the Healthcare System and Institution and The Solution to Fight Against Medical Misinformation
Researchers say that anxiety, confusion, and distrust of institutions are the primary factors driving most people to pursue medical practices based on misinformation.
Unfortunately, those who rely on social media for information tend to align themselves with those who agree. That, by itself, creates a vicious circle of misinformation and negative consequences.
A significant concern in the healthcare system is the prevalence of misinformation, as patients often rely on internet searches before consulting with their physicians. This burdens physicians who already face a heavy administrative workload, increasing their risk of burnout and stress when dealing with misinformed patients. It is also essential to realize the emerging information commonly shared on social media with evidence-based scientific facts. Delineating the difference between the latter two shall serve as the starting point to realign those individuals with accurate information.
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Southwell, Brian G et al. “Roles for Health Care Professionals in Addressing Patient-Held Misinformation Beyond Fact Correction.” American Journal of public health vol. 110, S3 (2020): S288-S289. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2020.305729
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Infodemics and misinformation negatively affect people’s health behaviors, new WHO review finds [WWW Document], 2022. A recent WHO study finds that infodemics and misinformation negatively affect people’s health behaviors. URL https://www.who.int/europe/news/item/01-09-2022-infodemics-and-misinformation-negatively-affect-people-s-health-behaviours--new-who-review-finds (accessed 2.7.23).
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