Just how bad is Facebook health information? Really bad

SUMMARY: The health information on Facebook is a danger to anyone who reads it. Experiences from current patients do provide some context but too often contain lousy advice. Facebook should post a warning on every page that deals with health issues that informs people that their physician is still their best source of information.

I joined some “private” healthcare condition pages on Facebook and was taken back by the amount of misinformation and bad advice. As I read the posts and replies, I realized that too many people make treatment choices based on this information. This is a danger to all of us.

Last month the Wall Street Journal exposed Facebook’s hypocrisy and mistruths. It was an excellent piece of investigative journalism. Yet despite Facebook’s misinformation and untruths, media buyers and brands continue to give them a lot of money. In my opinion, pharma companies should avoid Facebook at all costs.

Patients, and caregivers, need to be reminded that everyone’s experience with treatment options is different. What works for one person might not work for another one with a similar problem. They should also be reminded that the most credible sources of information are their doctors and medical journal studies which can be accessed online.

To help people become better-informed, pharma companies should provide links to credible health information; they should tap thought leaders to write content that addresses their questions. An online sponsored chat with a thought leader could also be significant if legal and regulatory people monitor it.

Pharma websites are designed to sell at the expense of helping people learn all they can about various treatments. That’s a huge mistake. We’re not in the business of selling; we’re in the business of helping patients chose the proper treatment.

As I read the comments from patients and caregivers, I felt a deep sense of empathy. I wanted to reach out to each one and send links to articles on treatments I found in various medical journals. I was also shocked by people questioning their doctor’s treatment recommendations. Some had to do with trust issues others felt their doctor wasn’t listening to their concerns.

Pharma has spent a LOT of money to protect profits via lobbying. It’s time to spend more money to help patients make better treatment decisions based on the good, credible health information they can understand. We have to be more than just a business.