FeaturedHealthcareCombatting the Spread of Health Misinformation Online

The internet is a powerful tool that many people today use to get information, communicate with others and purchase goods and services. However, the vast amount of data available at the click of your fingertips isn’t always accurate, especially healthcare. Much of what you find online isn’t based on scientific research or comes from a reputable source. As such, it’s become quite dangerous when these people armed with false data pretend to be experts and continue the cycle of misinformation.

How is false health information spread online?

Nowadays, when almost anything you need is available online, it’s essential that you also know how to identify a reliable source. The best way is to visit website of a reputable online pharmacy that verifies your doctor’s prescription first before filling the order.

There are many cunning ways of deceiving consumers about false medical information online. Some specific examples include:

  1. Search engine results. A majority of people looking for medical knowledge online use the search tab in their devices. Of course, the top results will get the most visits. The danger here is that whichever page gets the highest ranking will appear on top of your search. Also, keywords used won’t essentially lead you to a website with reliable information.
  2. Content generated by users. Many popular platforms today used by millions of users produce and consume content made by users. Some examples include Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter. Social media sites are notoriously famous for user-generated content that spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, the freedom to create content also comes with a consequence. Since these sources are unverified, many people tend to believe what they read right away without checking for relevant facts.
  3. Mobile health apps. Another method by which false health information spread is through mobile apps. Nowadays, there are health apps for almost every condition. For instance, there are apps that people use for dieting and taking an alternative medication. While there’s nothing wrong about lifestyle changes aimed at improving your health, these apps are unregulated. Many people who suffer from chronic illnesses end up trying these apps, which could significantly impact their recovery.

Perhaps the biggest challenge here is that there’s no definite way of controlling the spread of health misinformation online. Although you can warn the public to rely only on reputable sources or consult their doctor regarding their condition, some are still tempted to do things on their own.

While some would argue that the wealth of information benefits the public in general, there’s no denying the possibility of misinterpretation or malicious use of wrong data. Take, for example, the great debate about the dangers of vaccination. Because of people spreading false claims through the internet, it has significantly undermined the decades of scientific research dedicated to vaccinate and eradicate certain fatal diseases.

How to control medical misinformation?

Since it isn’t easy to get rid of false health information spreading online, what are some effective strategies to help and protect the public? Here are a few worth looking into:

  • Improving online health literacy. Many agencies around the world are making headway to teach health literacy online. However, measuring the effectiveness of these efforts is next to impossible. Nevertheless, by continuing these programs, it’s possible to make gradual changes that will make a more significant impact later on.
  • Online platforms are collaborating with physicians. Enlisting the help of health experts is probably the best way to compact myths spreading online. Even social media platforms can maximise physicians’ expertise when it comes to debunking the public’s misconceptions.
  • More substantial reliance on reputable sources. The credibility of the source will always beat misinformation. If user-generated content makes use of verified facts and scientific references, it’s less likely to make mistakes and spread incorrect knowledge to the public.
  • Maximising tech resources. Tech innovation can also contribute to finding a solution. For example, an online search aid that allows you to identify a reputable from a non-reputable website would be of great help. Also, there are mobile applications that connect individuals directly to their physicians whenever they have a health-related concern. This way, they won’t have to rely on the internet to decipher their symptoms.

It’s also essential these days to pay attention to ongoing research and breakthroughs in the medical industry. Instead of using social media to read news articles, you can subscribe to medical journals and other sites that publish verified scientific research.

Final thoughts

In conclusion, we are all responsible for finding a solution to the widespread health misinformation on the internet. While the government may impose stricter regulations, the media should also focus on responsible journalism. Lastly, the general public should practice more discretion and never trust health information found online at face value. It’s always best to consult a reliable health professional, cross-reference sources, and avoid sharing or spreading unverified health advice.

This post has been sponsored by Ocere

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Digital Health Buzz!

Digital Health Buzz!

Digital Health Buzz! aims to be the destination of choice when it comes to what’s happening in the digital health world. We are not about news and views, but informative articles and thoughts to apply in your business.

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