Although most patients trust their doctors, they also look for medical information outside of the exam room. Many resources offer accurate information (e.g., government health agencies, professional groups, and patient advocacy groups), but not all are dependable. Medical misinformation can be found online from various sources, which can have serious health consequences. The wrong information can lead to patients making bad decisions, delaying or avoiding necessary treatment, or even harming themselves by taking the wrong treatment.
The internet and social media have simplified the access and sharing of health information, but this has also led to the spread of false or misleading information. There are various ways in which patients can encounter medical misinformation, including social media posts, blogs, online forums, and videos.
In order to provide high-quality care, healthcare professionals must address patient-held misinformation. Misinformation cannot be effectively addressed by discrediting misperceptions alone. Patients’ misinformation can provide clinicians with insight into their values, preferences, comprehension, and information diet.
Systematically training healthcare professionals to address patient misinformation with empathy and curiosity while acknowledging time and resource constraints will be crucial to reducing medical misinformation in the future.