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Pharma Challenges

Healthcare websites: The dangers of misinformation & disinformation

By October 6, 2022December 7th, 2022No Comments
Healthcare Websites_The Dangers of Disinformation and Misinformation

As patients and HCP seek aid from the internet, they are more vulnerable to disinformation. As a result, healthcare misinformation is one of the greatest dangers of the 21st Century. Pharma companies ought to consider the presented obstacles so as to overcome them. 

In 2021, more than 70% of U.S. news consumers demonstrated a clear concern towards “fake news”. These have been polarizing opinions and leading people into misleading perspectives. Presenting then, concern within the pharmaceutical industry. 

So, today we are exploring the dangers of misinformation and disinformation. Along with the impact they have on the healthcare industry. 

Yet, first, it is important to understand the differences.

Misinformation VS. Disinformation – The Differences

Disinformation and misinformation are today’s buzzwords that are evermore listened to. Both present a threat to society and democracy, but mostly to health and safety. That is why it is important to know what they are, and the differences between them. 

Disinformation is the purposeful creation, presentation, and dissemination of untruthful content. It aims at deceiving the public for personal economic gain. For example, fake news is a way of disinformation. By polarizing society and opinions, these manipulate individuals’ ideas towards a single, biased, stream of thought. 

Misinformation is the unintentional spreading of false information. One that is often shared for the reader’s belief in it. It implies blind trust in the content that is being consumed. These often do not display habits of checking the veracity of the information they access. 

Did you know that … in 2021 48% of U.S. adults defended that the government should have in place regulations that restrict online false information? (Pew Research Center)

The U.S. government and private organizations have put into practice regulations, initiatives, and campaigns that aim at counteracting misinformation and disinformation. Some of these are:

  • The Health Misinformation Act of 2021 – is a bill that aims at amending the 1934 Act. It aims at making accountable those who create and disseminate untruthful information. 
  • FactCheck.org – demystifies misleading information and topics. By providing the reader with facts that prove the information.
  • Google – change in algorithms to disadvantage websites that share misleading, non-factual information. 

The Dangers

Misinformation and disinformation are dangerous for their influence on the reader. They have a great detrimental impact on democracy and societal awareness, especially in healthcare. 

Here is why:

  • Sensationalism 

Untruthful information uses sensationalism as a tool to foster an emotional connection. Motivating fear or compassion clouds the readers’ memory. Therefore, manipulating perceptions and beliefs. And through this strong emotional connection, the reader feels compelled to share that same information. Then, strengthening the power of misleading content.  

  • Digital features and reward systems

Websites display features and reward systems that appeal to the readers’ emotions. Through comment sections and other functions, these join people together for their belief in particular ideas. This further fosters the spread of misleading information and dangerous ideas that threaten the power of veracity. 

  • Search Engine Algorithms 

Online search engines work through the prioritization of websites that generate more traffic. Neglecting, in that way websites that offer fact-checked information. If you visit a website with misleading information, you are bound to receive similar suggestions. For that reason, you enter a filter bubble difficult to move away from.  

The influence…

Misinformation and disinformation have had a great impact on healthcare. This was heightened by the environment of fear lived during the pandemic. With COVID and vaccination came misinformation and disinformation. It reached all mediums of communication, namely those held on digital platforms. 

A study made during the pandemic has shown that people’s exposure to COVID-related misinformation has harmed their willingness to take the vaccine. For instance, 39% of U.S. adults said they heard the vaccine should not be administered to pregnant women. Within these, 17% are sure this information is true (KFF). 

It is important that pharma companies know how to counteract the influence of misinformation. By turning it into an opportunity to engage with the target audience, while educating it with fact-checked information. 

What can be done

Despite the power of misinformation and disinformation, U.S. readers (patients) are more aware of the importance of fact-checking practices. There are ways in which you can help them consume quality information. 

Use your expertise and data, and include them on your website. As experts in different fields in Pharma and medicine, companies detain valuable information that could only be resourceful if shared with the target audience. So start by:

  • Fact-checking your data and information – verify it is truthful;
  • Having your data and information peer-reviewed. This, to ensure transparency and impartiality are possible; and
  • Select the data and information that better match your audience’s needs. 

Make your website a vault of fact-checked information. In other words, the first resource for readers to have access to. One way you can do this is by sharing your data and information through blog posts. In them you can:

  • Educate your audience on your services and products;
  • Educate your audience on topics of interest;
  • Generate new leads; and
  • Increase engagement through SEO. 
Want to take it a step further?

Fighting misinformation and disinformation is all about taking charge of the narrative. In other words, making relevant, fact-checked content. And, video is a great tool to do so. PubVisuals and PatientVisuals might just be the ones for you. 

By including them on your website you can: 

  • Effectively share your content with your audience;
  • Shift patients’ attention away from other websites; and 
  • Increase engagement while strengthening brand awareness. 

Book your free expert session today, and learn more about video marketing in Pharma.