WADA adopts new policy to combat public health misinformation
CHICAGO – As the spread of misinformation continues to negatively impact efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and sow distrust in vaccines, public health mitigation efforts and of American healthcare institutions, the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted a policy at its annual meeting of the House of Delegates to combat health-related misinformation spread by healthcare professionals. As part of a report by the WADA Board, the new policy provides a comprehensive strategy to stop the spread of misinformation and protect the health of the public, including steps that can be taken by the AMA, social media companies, publishers, state licensing bodies, accrediting commissions, state and specialty health professional societies, and by those who accredit the continuing education.
The report outlines how claims of misinformation made by medical professionals can be directly linked to topics such as the promotion of unproven COVID-19 treatments, false claims of vaccine side effects, and public health advice that are not evidence-based. As misinformation by healthcare professionals has spread rampantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report cites a study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate which found that nearly two-thirds of anti-vaccine messages on social networks – more than 812,000 individual messages – could be traced down to just twelve individuals, dubbed the “misinformation dozen”. Since financial gain can often be the reason for spreading misinformation, the report notes the need to address both the person’s ability to find an audience to deceive and their ability to benefit financially from that audience.
“Physicians are a trusted source of information for patients and the public, but the spread of misinformation by a few has implications for the entire profession and causes damage. Physicians have an ethical and professional responsibility to share truthful information, correct misleading and inaccurate information, and direct people to trusted sources of health information,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD. “The AMA is committed to fighting misinformation, and we need to get to the root of the problem. We must ensure that health professionals spreading misinformation cannot use large, often financially advantageous platforms to spread dangerous health claims. While we are unlikely to undo the damage caused by misinformation campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can act now to help prevent the spread of misinformation in the future.
Building on WADA’s existing efforts to combat misinformation, the new policy calls on WADA to work with health professional societies and other relevant organizations to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes priorities following:
- To maintain the AMA as a reliable source of factual information for doctors and patients,
- Ensure that evidence-based medical and public health information is accessible by collaborating with publishers, research institutes and media organizations to develop best practices around paywalls and preprints to improve access to evidence-based information and analysis,
- Countering misinformation spread by healthcare professionals through social media platforms and countering the monetization of the spread of misinformation on social media platforms,
- Educate health professionals and the public to recognize misinformation and its dissemination,
- Examine the role of health professional associations as appropriate fact-checking entities for health-related information disseminated by various media platforms,
- Encourage ongoing training to be available for health professionals who serve as fact checkers to help prevent the spread of health-related misinformation,
- Ensure that licensing boards have the power to take disciplinary action against healthcare professionals for spreading health-related misinformation and affirm that any speech in which a healthcare professional uses his credentials is professional conduct and may be reviewed by his licensing entity,
- Ensure that specialist councils have the power to take action against the council’s certification of health professionals spreading health-related misinformation, and
- Encourage national and local medical societies to commit to dispelling misinformation in their jurisdictions.
The new report provides insight into the ways in which misinformation is spread by healthcare professionals, particularly through social media platforms. Although the report notes that misinformation existed long before the internet and social media became commonplace, social media platforms have acted as a multiplier for the spread of misinformation, notably fueling the prevalence of COVID misinformation. -19. The report concludes that tackling misinformation spread by healthcare professionals, particularly on social media, will require a three-pronged approach: prioritizing misinformation in social media algorithms, affirming and strengthening the role of reactive fact-checking and tackling any underlying incentive structure for health. professionals spreading health-related misinformation.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMA has spearheaded numerous efforts to build trust in vaccines, defend science, and combat misinformation and misinformation, including urging the CEOs of six major media companies social and e-commerce to remain vigilant against the proliferation of both purposes. misinformation and unintentional misinformation on their platforms. Since the start of the pandemic, the AMA has provided physicians with up-to-date information on COVID-19 news, research, vaccines and treatments through its online COVID-19 Resource Center. WADA will continue to leverage its communication channels and network to provide physicians with the most relevant evidence-based information and resources to share with their patients and will continue to support policies aimed at combating the spread of misinformation and health misinformation.