Viewpoint: Why fake news is also a physician's responsibility

Trust is currency in both journalism and medicine — and restoring confidence in both institutions is linked, suggests an opinion piece in JAMA, authored by a physician and two healthcare news publishers.

As public trust in U.S. institutions declines, a lack of trust in journalism and medicine has the most potential to adversely affect Americans' health, the authors write. This mistrust has already had some negative effects. Outbreaks in vaccine-preventable disease and distrust in the motivations of all healthcare stakeholders — hospitals, physicians, payers and pharmaceutical companies — can be traced back to mistrust of media and medicine. 

The authors point to several factors that contribute to this issue. Peer-reviewed journals often overemphasize certain findings and downplay study limitations. This is often compounded in press releases and news stories, leading patients to bring unrealistic expectations to their providers. Celebrity health endorsements and social media also contribute to these problems.

The authors note several ways clinicians can help fight this trend:

  • Support healthcare journalism, especially at the local level, by partnering with news outlets and being a trusted source
  • Amplify and share truthful health news stories and messages
  • Speak up when news is incorrect or false messages are spreading

Read more here.


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