Health​ misinformation in Facebook groups

KEY TAKEAWAY: According to a 2018 study from the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of American adults turn to Facebook for news, and a lot of people belong to Facebook groups for specific health conditions, but I have found an abundance of false information. This represents an opportunity for pharma, but they need to align processes around online health seeker needs.

I recently had a chance to review the content on several Facebook health condition groups and share it with some physician thought leaders. To say that they were shocked would be an understatement. There was misinformation and bad advice everywhere but what we don’t know is exactly how many people are acting on this bad information.

Take one of the groups I visited on AFIB. Patients with AFIB were on the group talking about surgical options to treat AFIB even though a leading cardiologist old me that it’s not a recommended treatment for 95% of AFIB patients. Then there were recommendations on supplements with some recommending dangerous levels of of some products.

The shingles group was a little bit better but again there were many recommendations for home treatments that are questionable at best. An outbreak of shingles is very painful but in order for established Rx treatments to work patients need to get to the doctor in the very early stages of shingles. That was barely discussed.

Where is pharma?

Pharma is generally scared of social media, I get that but there are opportunities if they design their processes around online health seekers.

1ne: A Facebook group administrator can set posts to be reviewed before posting. This guarantees that posts are within guidelines and also may eliminate spam.

2wo: Pages should focus on health conditions, not Rx brands and should include content from prominent thought leaders. This is another way to avoid possible FDA issues.

3hree: Facebook scheduled chats with physicians answering questions can also help build a company as an authority on certain subjects.

The downside? It can be risky but if you’re trying to build trust with people and help them get accurate health information this could be a great tool. You need to ensure your M L R team is comfortable with your administrator and that every post does not need to go through a formal M L R review. In other words, align processes around patient needs not what’s best for your organization.