There is no question about it: the internet is dark and full of terrors. On a less melodramatic note, all of us have fallen victim to internet misinformation in one way or another. Common examples of internet fake news range from simple anecdotes about detox teas to more harmful examples about political candidates. When it comes to healthcare and cosmetic medicine, the sheer amount of misinformation can be daunting. How the hell are we supposed to convince a patient that something shared millions of times is a flat-out lie? Unfortunately, this problem isn’t going away anytime soon.
With all of this in mind, today we will be discussing the dangers of fake news, why bad healthcare tips are particularly prevalent, and how doctors can effectively speak to patients who have been misinformed.
**Note, as of the writing of this article, SCALE 2020 has not been postponed or canceled. We are carefully monitoring ongoing events including recommendations/guidance from the U.S. CDC and the World Health Organization.**
The Dangers of Internet Misinformation
It might seem so obvious it isn’t even necessary to point out, but fake news is extremely harmful to individuals and groups of people alike. Consider the fact that in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, there were 8.7 million user engagements in fake news stories compared to 7.3 million user engagements in mainstream media stories. If that statistic isn’t enough to illustrate the problem, here is a list of the most shared, blatantly false stories of that election cycle:
Pope Francis Shocks World, Endorses Donald Trump for President, Releases Statement – 960,000 engagements
Wikileaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS…Then Drops Another BOMBSHELL! Breaking News – 789,000 engagements
IT’S OVER: Hillary’s ISIS Email Just Leaked & It’s Worse Than Anyone Could Have Imagined – 754,000 engagements
Politics aside, it is easy to see how these fake news articles may have potentially swayed something as important as a presidential election. When we start to consider issues like what skin cream to use or whether or not sunscreen is safe, there is no question that internet misinformation affects people’s lives in a very real way.
Bad Healthcare Tips, Skincare Tips, and More
Continuing the theme of horrifying statistics, a recent report estimates that approximately 90% of social media influencers promote false ideas on nutrition and weight loss. But why? The social media influencers studied had considerable audiences. Why would these individuals not use their platforms to promote solid health and beauty advice? The answer is simple: within internet culture, it is more important to be engaging and interesting than it is to tell the truth.
This is particularly true for skincare tips, diet tips, and healthcare tips overall. It isn’t sexy to tell your audience that slowly adjusting to a sustainable lifestyle with more whole foods and daily exercise will help them lose weight over time. Instead, why not promote a fat-burning miracle shake provided by your generous sponsors?
Unfortunately, this problem extends beyond just diet and exercise tips. The rise of the “Anti-Vaxxer” movement has been well-documented in recent years. Unlike beauty tips, failing to vaccinate children had material impacts on public health. Not only were unvaccinated children getting sick, but the anti-vax community sowed the seeds of accepting false information rather than listening to licensed medical professionals.
Talking to Know-It-All Patients
Patients who think they know better than doctors are nothing new. Yet we must recognize that the problem has worsened with the advent of Facebook parents and WebMD. So how can we talk to our patients who already made up their minds before they walked in the door? Here are a few high-level tips:
- Acknowledge their concerns without agreeing to them. It can be tempting to go into a full powerplay when dealing with a dissenting patient. People are more receptive to new ideas when they feel they are being heard and respected first.
- Take control of the interaction. That being said, you are the physician and they are the patient. Always keep the conversation on track as much as possible.
- Provide quality resources for their research. Most misinformed patients are misinformed because they took the time to do their own research. Providing them with high-quality resources for future reference is a great way to bridge the gap.
- Bill for your time. There will still be times when patients will take up 20-30 minutes of your time. Simply make sure you are billing for your time when necessary.
This July 22-25th, join us at the world-famous Music City Convention Center in downtown Nashville for SCALE 2020! The annual Symposium for Cosmetic Advances & Laser Education is bigger and better than ever. We are proud to present a wide range of exhibitors and sponsors who will be discussing topics ranging from robotic dermatological surgeries to acne to non-invasive cosmetic procedures.
Register now to reserve your spot to the premier multidisciplinary meeting for aesthetic medicine, surgery, and dermatology in the United States.
2020 Exhibitors & Sponsors