Doctors use influencer tactics to suppress misinformation

Doctors use influencer tactics to suppress misinformation

When DrDr Siobhan Deshauer makes videos online. Its main goal is to demystify medicine. His secondary goal?

“I call it ‘education hacking,’” said the doctor and YouTuber, who has nearly a million subscribers on the platform. I come for that mystery and excitement, but I'm smuggling in some topics that I think are really important and that I feel passionate about. »

Some experts say one of the best ways to combat the rising tide of medical misinformation on social media is to flood it with compelling content backed by science.I Deschauer, an Ontario-based specialist in internal medicine and rheumatology, is part of a growing group of doctors and researchers taking this approach.

Take, for example, one of his obscure medical videos. MI Deshawer tells the story of a woman who suffered lead poisoning. Doctors took time to understand the cause of her symptoms, but they eventually realized they were due to lead in the Ayurvedic supplements she was taking.

It's an engaging video with a catchy title: “The Deadly Disease of This Appendage: A Medical Mystery.” The video thumbnail appears MI Deshawer looks shocked against a bright blue background. Behind it, large letters say “POISONED” and an arrow points to an X-ray of someone's lower leg.

These are the things that attract the listener, but for MI Deshawer, most of the video's value comes from this “escaped” education.

“I covered the concept of how supplements are regulated and what one should look for when purchasing supplements. How do you make sure you're safe? It wasn't the topic, it wasn't the title of the video, but someone was walking away knowing this stuff,” she explained.

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MI Deshawer, whose online username is ViolinMD in reference to her career as a violinist before medical school, said she started producing videos while she was in school to document everything she was learning.

“And by building community [d’auditeurs]“I was able to hear their comments, their concerns, what they saw in health care, and maybe some of their concerns,” she said. And I felt like a lot of the concerns about health care came from not being able to access it or see what was happening behind closed doors. »

The same tactics used in disinformation

Experts say algorithms that deliver engaging content to users may reinforce these concerns. They tend to foster misinformation and sensationalist generalizations, turning social media sites into a harmful echo chamber for some users, said Timothy Caulfield, a professor of health policy and law at the University of Alberta, who in recent years has become one of Canada's most powerful voices. About the case.

“It will be an endless battle,” he added. There will never be one simple tool to solve this incredibly complex cultural, social, economic and technological challenge – but we are receiving more and more good research that tells us what types of approaches work best. »

Caulfield argues that the most effective science communicators use some of the same tactics as those who spread misinformation—but back them up with hard data rather than pseudoscience.

There are a number of people who do it well, he said. DrDr Jane Gunter, MD, a gynecologist, has been practicing this for some time, after dealing with misinformation spread by Gwyneth Paltrow's wellness site Goop. Drs Sameer Gupta is on Instagram and TikTok debunking health fads and misinformation.

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Mr Caulfield believes some doctors don't think much about how they present their content, but those who gain an audience are well aware of this.

“You have to think about what its content is going to look like,” he said. Often the clinical community and scientific community do not do this, but people who promote misinformation do. »

One such technique, he said, is the use of charts and visuals that are easily distributed.

Mr. Caulfield sits on the Executive Advisory Board of LaSciencedAbord, an initiative aimed at demystifying health misinformation. Members encourage independent experts to create scientific content, which the organization also produces.

“Transparency breeds trust”

Another tactic is to use anecdotes, said Jonathan Garry, science communication officer in McGill University's Office of Science and Society.

Addressing scientists and doctors, he said: “We can share our personal experiences if we can, because stories resonate more than graphs and charts.” He added that these personal experiences must be supported by a body of evidence.

It's also better to show people the evidence, rather than tell them how to feel, Gary said.

“People don't want to be told what to think. They don't want us to be paternalistic. They want to show work. We have to show them our research, show them how we arrived at our conclusions. Transparency breeds trust,” he said.

DrDr Kathleen Ross, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said her organization has conducted surveys that show doctors are a reliable source of health information.

“Unfortunately, right now in Canada, many Canadians – nearly seven million – do not have access to this primary care source to talk to. “Misinformation and misinformation represent a major risk and lead to poor outcomes,” she added.

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To solve this problem, you must resort to reliable sources. »

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