*EMBARGOED All research presented at the 2022 ACG Annual Scientific Meeting and Postgraduate Course is strictly embargoed until Sunday, October 23, 2022, at 12:00 pm EDT.
Monday, October 24, 2022 | 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM ET | Location: Crown Ballroom
Author Insight from Zachary C. Warner, MD, MPH, University of Arizona
What’s new here and important for clinicians?
Health misinformation includes false, inaccurate, or misleading claims about health that are not supported by current scientific evidence. Over the past several years health-related misinformation and skepticism in medicine have become increasingly prevalent with the advent of online, user-generated, digital media. At the same time, patients are more frequently turning to user-generated sites, like social media, for information/support. While these sites are useful because they can provide access to social support and information that patients otherwise would lack, medical information on social media is unregulated. National and international health organizations have called for research to better understand the breadth and influence that exposure to online misinformation has on patient decisions and health outcomes.
The consequences of online misinformation exposure are not well studied. Adoption of unproven cures and symptom management may increase patients’ risk for poor health outcomes and financial hardship. Unproven cures and symptom management approaches are unlikely to be covered by health insurance, potentially leaving patients paying high out-of-pocket costs. Our study is the first gastrointestinal-focused research to document an association between unproven treatments for Hepatitis B and financial incentives among online Instagram users. We found that users who generate Hepatitis B misinformation also have greater reach (higher number of followers) and engagement (higher number of likes) than users who do not promote misinformation about Hepatitis B. It is possible that patients with chronic health conditions, conditions that do not have simple treatments, are vulnerable to online health misinformation and for-profit users.
We recommend that healthcare providers and health organizations openly engage in online and in-person conversations about misinformation. That doesn’t mean patients should avoid the internet altogether when seeking information about their care. Patients have, at their fingertips, access to an unprecedented amount of health information online. Providers are, and continue to be, trusted sources of information for patients and play a critical role in directing patients to high quality information sources about their disease.
What do patients need to know?
We heavily emphasize that patients do their best to assess the possible drivers behind the individuals or organizations who create the health information viewed online, particularly on social media sites. We believe it is wise to maintain a hefty level of skepticism for information that promises outcomes that are, “too good to be true,” use anecdotes for support, or are experimental. We recommend the CRAAP test – which guides individuals to evaluate sources of health information by considering the Currency of the information, Relevance to your needs, Authority of the source, Accuracy of the content, and the Purpose the source exists.
Read the Abstract
Zachary C. Warner, MD, MPH, University of Arizona
echo.warner [at] nurs.utah.edu
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