The AMA is adopting a new policy aimed at tackling public health misinformation

CHICAGO – With the spread of misinformation that continues to negatively impact efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and sow distrust in vaccines, efforts to mitigate public health and U.S. health institutions, the American Medical Association (AMA) today adopted a policy on during the annual meeting of its House of Delegates to address health-related misinformation disseminated by health professionals. As part of a report developed by the AMA Board of Trustees, the new policy provides a comprehensive strategy aimed at halting the spread of misinformation and protecting public health, including actions that can be taken by the AMA, social media companies, publishers , state licensing bodies, certification councils, state and specialized health professional societies and those that accredit continuing education.

The report outlines how misinformation allegations made by health professionals may be directly related to topics such as promoting unproven COVID-19 treatments, false allegations of vaccine side effects and non-evidence-based public health guidelines. While disinformation from health professionals spread rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, the report cites a study by the Center for Combating Digital Hate, which found that nearly two-thirds of social media posts against vaccines – or more than 812,000 individual posts – can be traced back to only twelve people called the “Dozen of Misinformation.” Given that financial gain can often be a source of disinformation, the report notes the need to pay attention to both a person’s ability to find an audience that is misleading and his or her ability to benefit financially from that audience. .

“Doctors are a trusted source of information for both patients and the public, but the spread of misinformation by few has consequences for the entire profession and causes harm. Physicians have an ethical and professional responsibility to share true information, correct misleading and inaccurate information, and direct people to reliable sources of health information, “said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, who is committed to countering misinformation. and we need to address the root of the problem. We need to ensure that health professionals who disseminate misinformation do not have the opportunity to use wide-ranging platforms, which often benefit them financially, to spread dangerous health claims. Although we are unlikely to undo the damage caused by disinformation campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can act now to help prevent the spread of misinformation in the future.

Expanding the AMA’s existing efforts to address misinformation, the new policy calls on the AMA to work with health professionals and other relevant organizations to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes the following priorities:

  • Maintain the AMA as a trusted source of evidence-based information for physicians and patients,
  • Provide access to evidence-based medical and public health information by engaging with publishers, research institutions and media organizations to develop best practices around paid walls and preprints to improve access to evidence-based information and analysis,
  • Address the disinformation disseminated by health professionals through social media platforms and pay attention to the monetization of the dissemination of misinformation on social media platforms,
  • Train health professionals and the public on how to recognize and spread misinformation,
  • Consider the role of health professionals’ societies in serving appropriate institutions to verify the facts of health-related information disseminated by different media platforms,
  • Encourage lifelong learning to be available to fact-checking health professionals to help prevent the spread of health-related misinformation,
  • Ensure that licensing boards have the authority to take disciplinary action against health professionals to disseminate health-related misinformation, and confirm that all statements in which a health professional uses his or her authority are professional conduct and can be verified by their licensor. authority,
  • Ensure that specialized councils have the right to take action against the certification of the board of health professionals disseminating health-related misinformation, and
  • Encourage state and local medical societies to commit to dispelling misinformation in their jurisdictions.

The new report provides an overview of the ways in which disinformation is disseminated by health professionals, especially through social media platforms. While 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 – especially by fueling the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. The report concludes that combating misinformation disseminated by health professionals, especially on social media, will require a tripartite approach: removing the priority of misinformation in social media algorithms, affirming and empowering reactive fact-checking and tackling any major structure. to promote health professionals disseminating health-related misinformation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMA made numerous efforts to build trust in vaccines, advocate for science, and counter misinformation and misinformation, including calling on the CEOs of six leading social media and e-commerce companies to remain vigilant against proliferation. on both targeted misinformation and inadvertent misinformation on their platforms. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the AMA has provided physicians with up-to-date information on COVID-19 news, research, vaccines, and therapies through its online COVID-19 resource center. The AMA will continue to use its communication channels and network to provide physicians with the most relevant, evidence-based information and resources to share with their patients and to continue to support policies to combat the further spread of health misinformation and misinformation.

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