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The Issue of Online Medical (Mis)Information

Posted by Emerald Coast Medical Association on Mar 8, 2019 6:45:00 AM

The internet seems to be a place where people think they can diagnose themselves instead of going to a healthcare professional. The biggest issue here is that if you look up "Why does my head hurt?" on google, you can end up with an answer like, "you may have a brain tumor." Nothing is going to stop this mass of people who use the internet. So, what should be done? More health care professionals need to establish online presence. Doing so would help create better responses and less havoc for people using the internet for medical knowledge.

The Emerald Coast Medical Association is here for both medical professionals and patients alike to make sure the correct information is available. Another good option would be to create a Q&A service. Dr. Petra Dolman, MD, hosts an hour-long Twitter chat, with guest moderators facilitating conversations ranging from how to negotiate pay, navigating residency interviews, and countering burn out, all searchable under the hashtag #womeninmedicine. Social media will help give those with unheard voices a better opportunity to help those in need.

However, since freedom of speech is a thing, anyone on the internet can get backlash, even if they are correct. For example, Dr. Monique Tello, MD, MPH spoke out in support of vaccinations; she was then targeted by "anti-vaxers" online. Her blog was overthrown with one-star reviews, but those reviews were later removed due to their invalidity. With that being said, this scares medical professionals reaching for the internet because it can be an unforgiving or uncaring place. With the next generation of doctors spending a lot of their time on social media, we can't deny that the online platforms should be a place with easy to reach medical advice or information. With that information being well known, Universities have begun to take notice and create positions to legitimize social media. The Association for Healthcare Social Media will aim to create the best practices by which all health care professionals can be guided and protected in the emerging field.  

By using social media, medical professionals can come off as more human to the public. Just like when a patient is going to see a therapist, they want someone who cares about them and has had good and bad times too. Showing more care for the patient's emotions and wellbeing can show them that you want to help them. Revealing past experiences, giving your real opinion, voicing the option you'd take, and talking to patients so they can understand better will go a long way. Whether it be in your office or on the web, there will always be a patient looking for a medical professional to help point them in a direction so they can get better.

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Topics: Doctor-Patient Relationships, Patient Education, Ask the Doctor, Prevention

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