In reaction to doctors and other health professionals spreading misinformation and lies during the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Medical Association has adopted a policy aimed at both countering misinformation and holding accountable to their professional advice.
False claims made by health professionals can be directly linked to topics such as the promotion of unproven COVID-19 treatments, inaccurate claims about vaccine side effects, and public health guidelines that are not evidence-based. The root of the problem is associated with a dozen people who accounted for nearly two-thirds of anti-vaccine social media posts.
Because these people can profit from disinformation, the AMA has said that it is necessary to address both the person’s ability to find an audience to deceive and their ability to financially benefit from that audience.
“Doctors are a reliable source of information for both patients and the public, but the dissemination of disinformation by a few has implications for the entire profession and causes harm,” said AMA President 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 reliable sources of health information. The AMA is committed to tackling disinformation and we need to address the root of the problem. We must ensure that health professionals who spread disinformation are unable to use far-reaching platforms, often to their financial advantage, to disseminate dangerous health claims. While it is unlikely that we will undo the damage caused by disinformation campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can act now to help prevent the spread of disinformation in the future. “
The new policy requires the AMA to work with healthcare professional societies and other relevant organizations to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes the following priorities:
- Maintain the AMA as a reliable source of evidence-based information for physicians and patients,
- Ensure that evidence-based medical and public health information is accessible by partnering with publishers, research institutes and media organizations to develop paywall and preprint best practices to improve access to evidence-based information and analytics ,
- Addressing disinformation spread by healthcare professionals via social media platforms and tackling the monetization of the spread of disinformation on social media platforms,
- Educate healthcare professionals and the public on how to recognize misinformation and how it spreads,
- Consider the role of health care companies in acting as an appropriate fact-checking entity for health-related information disseminated by various media platforms,
- Encourage continuing education to be available for health professionals to act as fact-checkers to help prevent the spread of health-related disinformation,
- Ensuring that licensing committees have the authority to take disciplinary action against healthcare professionals for disseminating health-related disinformation and claim that any speech in which a healthcare practitioner is using their credentials is professional conduct and can be reviewed by the authorization body,
- Ensure that specialized committees have the authority to take action against board certification for health care professionals disseminating health-related disinformation and
- Encourage state and local medical societies to commit to dispelling disinformation in their jurisdictions.
The report notes that social media platforms have amplified the spread of disinformation. He concludes that the fight against disinformation spread by healthcare professionals, particularly on social media, will require a three-pronged approach: depriving the priorities of disinformation in social media algorithms, affirming and strengthening the role of reactive fact verification, and addressing any structure of underlying incentives for health professionals to spread health disinformation.
Originally posted on our sister brand, Medical economics.