WADA seeks to crack down on medical professionals spreading misinformation

In response to doctors and other healthcare professionals spreading misinformation and lies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Medical Association adopted a policy aimed at both countering misinformation while holding those responsible accountable to their professional guidance.

False claims made by health professionals can be directly related to topics such as the promotion of COVID-19[feminine]treatments, inaccurate claims of vaccine side effects and public health advice that is not based on evidence. The root of the problem is associated with a dozen individuals who represented nearly two-thirds of anti-vaccine social media posts.

Because these people can profit from misinformation, the AMA said it was necessary 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,” said the president of the AMA, Gerald E. Harmon, MD, in a statement. “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. WADA 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.

The new policy directs WADA to work with health professional societies and other relevant organizations to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes the following priorities:

  • 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 boards have the power to take action against board certification of health professionals spreading health-related misinformation, and
  • Encourage national and local medical societies to commit to dispelling misinformation in their jurisdictions.

The report notes that social media platforms have amplified the ability to spread misinformation. It concludes that the fight against misinformation disseminated by health professionals, in particular social mediawill require a three-pronged approach: prioritizing misinformation in social media algorithms, affirming and reinforcing the role of reactive fact-checking, and tackling any underlying incentive structures for professionals in the health spreading health-related misinformation.

Originally posted on our sister brand, Medical economics.

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