Experience of Health Professionals with Misinformation and Its Impact on Their Job Practice: Qualitative Interview Study.

Kbaier, Dhouha; Ismail, Nashwa; Farrell, Tracie and Kane, Annemarie (2022). Experience of Health Professionals with Misinformation and Its Impact on Their Job Practice: Qualitative Interview Study. JMIR formative research, 6(11), article no. e38794.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2196/38794


Background: Misinformation is often disseminated through social media, where information is spread rapidly and easily. Misinformation affects many patients' decisions to follow a treatment prescribed by Health Professionals (HP). For example, chronic patients (e.g., diabetes) may not follow their prescribed treatment plans. During the recent pandemic, misinformed people rejected Covid-19 vaccines and public health measures, such as masking and physical distancing, and used unproven treatments.

Objectives:This study investigates the impact of health-threatening misinformation on the practices of healthcare professionals in the UK, especially during the outbreaks of diseases where a great amount of health-threatening misinformation is produced and released. The study examined the misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak to determine how it may have impacted practitioners' perceptions of misinformation, and how that may have influenced their practice. In particular, this study explored the answers to the following questions: How do health professionals react when they learn that a patient has been misinformed? What misinformation do they believe has the greatest impact on medical practice? What aspects of change and intervention taken in health professionals' practice in response to misinformation?

Methods: This research follows a qualitative approach to collect rich data from a smaller subset of healthcare practitioners working in the UK. Data was collected through one-to-one online interviews with 13 health practitioners including junior and senior physicians and nurses in the UK.

Results: Research findings indicate that HPs view misinformation in different ways according to the scenario in which it occurs. Some HPs consider it to be an acute incident exacerbated by the pandemic, while others see it as an ongoing phenomenon (always present) and are addressing it as part of their daily work. HPs are developing pathways for dealing with misinformation. Two main pathways have been identified; firstly, to educate the patient through coaching, advising, or patronising. The second step is to devote resources such as time and effort to facilitate two-way communication between the patient and the healthcare provider through listening and talking to them.

Conclusions: HPs are not receiving the confidence they deserve from patients. The lack of trust in healthcare practitioners has been attributed to several factors, including (1) Trusting alternative sources of information (e.g., social media) (2) Patients' doubts about HPs' experience (e.g., a junior doctor with limited experience) (3) During the pandemic, HPs' time and availability for patients was limited. There are two dimensions of trust: patient-HP trust and patient-information trust. There are two necessary actions to address the issue of lack of trust in these dimensions: (1) Building trust and (2) Maintaining trust. The main recommendations of the HPs are to listen to the patients, give them more time, and seek evidence-based resources.

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