COVID-19 case studies offer insights into what it will take to combat misleading medical information online

July 20, 2023
Healthcare leaders ‘take a shot’ at addressing viral medical rumors and disinformation.

A team of medical and public health leaders from the American Board of Internal Medicine, ABIM Foundation, and several respected institutions say COVID-19 case studies, among other examples, can inspire new recommendations aimed at combatting viral medical rumors and false or misleading information online.

The analysis and recommendations are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

ThisIsOurShot and VacunateYa, or TIOS-VY, are linked national grassroots organizations that empower and support trusted medical professionals to share accurate health information on social media and combat misinformation with the goal of building healthier communities. The viral vaccine-selfie movement #ThisIsOurShot was one of their signature efforts. TIOS-VY built the organizational infrastructure to support medical professionals as they engaged and convened online communities. But despite their efforts, nearly 2 years into the pandemic, 78 percent of adults either still believed or were unsure of whether to believe at least 1 of 8 false statements about COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines.

TIOS-VY encountered several challenges that hampered its effectiveness online. These included limited funding, limited data about their digital audience, and online harassment and attacks aimed at public health communicators. Considering these challenges, the authors recommend the creation of a sustainably funded, independent public–private partnership to address the challenges faced by TIOS–VY.

American College of Physicians release on Newswise