New York, NY – The “fake news” phenomenon is more than just a problem for politics. At a time when we are scrutinizing (or should be scrutinizing) every headline and blurb that pops up in our newsfeed, inaccurate and sometimes sensational information regarding health and medicine is slipping through the cracks – and it can have dangerous effects.

In a piece for Forbes, Dr. Robert Glatter, speculates on the the severe end of the consequences “Fake news–particularly if related to a communicable disease–may have negative effects on patients’ emotional and physical well being, and could even lead to suicidal ideation or suicide.” He cites two recent examples of the “fake news” phenomenon: 

  1. An article published on Breitbart titled “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.” Beyond the fact that it cites no accurate data regarding birth control, it plays on very real fears and anxiety that many share.
  2. Fake medical records for Hillary Clinton, which that showed up on the web in August, and were eventually disputed and proven to be false by her personal physician. They inaccurately listed a host of serious conditions and ailments.

Glatter goes on to add that it is imperative that medical sites that aggregate news from the world of health start to follow in the footsteps of Google and Facebook and implement systems to validate the accuracy of content and have a mechanism to scrub that which doesn’t measure up.

Why it matters – As we’ve covered numerous times in this blog and in our trend reports (“First Visit, Second Opinion” – 2016 Health Trends), patient empowerment and the thirst for health information is at an all time high. The internet remains a top research tool, but all too often, people are turning to social media and other online resources of varying quality for critical advice. In this new era of questionable content, trusted health “thought leaders” (doctors, advocacy groups, and maybe even brands) may soon see themselves saddled with a new responsibility—guiding patients toward the right news sources with accurate, verifiable information.

About the Author:

Jeffrey Giermek