Misinformation and confusion: Online health seekers

THE SHORT: The confusion around the Presidential election, which is ongoing at the time of this post, has a lot of similarities with online health information. As social media becomes a bigger part of information gathering for health seekers they are often making bad treatment decisions based on what they read.

According to Annual Review “in general, we do not have the cognitive capacity, motivation, or time to evaluate all the information that we encounter online. However, motivation is increased when we are to research a topic regarding our own health condition or symptoms. Even under these circumstances, the assessment of source reputability and the veracity of information is an extremely difficult task”.

With conspiracy theories everywhere the most viral pieces of fake health news pushed far-reaching conspiracies between governments and medical communities and suggested ditching common medical treatment of life-threatening diseases for unproven cures. The top 50 articles garnered more than 12 million shares, comments, and reactions this year, mostly on Facebook.

Fighting Online Health Misinformation

The first step is to identify the misinformation and issue a public rebuttal — involved responding to misinformation posts by publicly pointing out misinformation and rebutting by including links to credible sources or evidence-based information. This is where pharma can play a huge part. The need to include links to credible health information is essential to help online health seekers evaluate treatment options.

The second step is that the medical community share misinformation trends with HCP’s so they can talk about it on their sites as well as in telehealth conferences. More HCP’s are sending out newsletters and they need to communicate the dangers of delaying treatment or using alternative therapy treatments for serious health problems.

Finally, every advertiser needs to hold Facebook, and other social media sites, accountable for bad health information. For too long Facebook has evaded responsibility by allowing people to post anything they want. Facebook is too big and powerful to brush off their responsibility to users.

(PRNewsfoto/Weber Shandwick)

Pharma product websites need to be a LOT better job of sharing resources. Why more websites don’t encourage thought leaders to write medical content for product websites is hard to understand, but then online health seekers are getting lost online.