For many people, the internet is the first port of call when they want information about health, wellness, and hygiene. When used in the right way, online information can have a positive effect in educating people on these matters, but all too often, the information found online is inaccurate and often dangerous.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point, with misinformation and conspiracy theories running rampant, causing many people not to take the virus seriously, or refuse to be vaccinated. It is costing lives.
So how do you combat this misinformation and the spread of ‘fake news’ to ensure you’re patients are getting the most medically accurate advice?
Develop a social media presence
Social media is primarily where this information is being broadcast. There has been a huge rise in the numbers of medical professionals taking to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and YouTube to refute the misinformation.
Recently, high numbers of pregnant women are refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccination or even go near a sonogram machine due to the inaccurate conspiracy theories online that they are not safe for them or their unborn baby.
Set up some social media accounts and ensure that you are putting correct information on there for your patients. Ask your patients via email or text message to follow you online in order to get the most up-to-date info.
Even if you do not have the time and resources to engage with people on social media, you can at least share medically accurate information on your accounts from the government and relevant medical bodies.
Maintain regular contact with your patients
If you don’t already have one, set up an e-newsletter for your practice and ask permission from your patients to email them. Then, on a weekly basis, send out an update. It can include various updates about the practice but also include accurate information on particular issues that might be currently in the media or online. A well-timed email from you might mean that they aren’t as likely to believe inaccurate information they see on social media.
Guide patients to the right information
Educating patients should be a top priority. While you can’t be on hand 24/7 to talk to them, patients need to know where to go for information. Random Googling or searching on social media can lead them down a rabbit hole of bad advice. Through the practice website and newsletter, provide a list of trusted resources they can visit for information when they have questions.
While you might think that medical misinformation is a new issue, it’s not the case at all, you can trace it back all the way to the smallpox vaccination in England in the 18th century.
Technology and the invention of the internet have accelerated this exponentially and taken on a political undertone too. While it’s frustrating waiting for the search engines and social media companies to crack down on inaccurate health info, there are a few things that you can do to try and educate your patients.