Let’s be honest, coming up with original content for your website and social media page is hard. In an age where information is becoming its own form of advertising, the internet is constantly expanding that information at a rapid rate. However, there is a lot of information out there, and there are multiple avenues of spreading it. If the information is outright false or we overuse a subject, it loses its value. And with a lot of misinformation in medical blog posts out there, it is difficult to establish the website of your medical practice as a voice of authority. So, what can you do to both read and spread more accurate content? How can you boost your own credibility with both search engines and patients? Also, why does fake medical content gain so much traction with people in the first place?
Fake News and Bad Medical Content
One of the biggest plagues of medical blogs on both private sites and social media are misinformation. Whether it comes from a willful lack of understanding or true misinformation, there are at least thirty bad articles for every good one. The consequences alone from the spread of such misinformation is dire and they can range from wasting money on a non-existent cure for a condition, to literally causing a re-emergence of formerly eradicated diseases. This kind of content is predatory, manipulative, and harmful for people vulnerable to accepting a discredited solution to a problem. It also sows mistrust between caretakers, doctors, and patients. But what are the circumstances that makes this happen? What are the motives of anti-vaxxers and people who sell cure-alls?
Turning Hope into Fanaticism
The thing about people who start and spread conspiracy theories or “fake news” is that they require a group of fanatic followers to properly start a movement. The louder the crowd, the more they can profit from the people rallying behind their cause. However, not unlike spotting the difference between a religion and a cult, there is still a fine line between sharing medical content and spreading fake news. And not unlike a cult, these fake news medical articles use the same recruiting tactics to breed fanatic and loyal followers. They find someone desperate, then offer them hope, whether or not it is realistic.
People who get recruited into a cult are often in a state of extreme vulnerability. Grieving mothers who lost a baby to SIDs, for example, are often desperate, vulnerable, and looking for a reason. The anti-vaxxer movement provides an easy narrative but also creates a scapegoat by blaming vaccines and the medical industry. And when a cult, provides that level of catharsis, they will get a fanatic group of followers fast. But that is just what gets them hooked. What keeps them there is spreading fear. When they create a boogeyman out of “big pharma” they are trying to create a common enemy. This is all while playing on every parent’s fear of their children coming to harm.
Any type of information that provides an easy solution, places the blame on any outside entity, and plays on a person’s fear are the three things that all fake medical content has in common. This makes fake medical content no different from any other fanatic movement. But how is it growing so quickly?
Ease of Accessibility
For starters, fake cures, false news, and medical conspiracy theories are not a new phenomenon. Anti-vaccine sentiment has been around since the very beginning of their creation. If there is anyone who wants to make quick cash, then they are happy to provide an “ancient secret cure” for all the money these people have. But most people are unaware or heard about it from a niche group. Today, social media and the internet make it far too easy to spread any information with little oversight about quality.
Blogging, digital advertising, and rely on fast, relatable content. There are growing regulations to assure that the content is becoming more accurate, by weeding out the bad information. However, there is a heavy amount of politics, censorship questions, and technology that needs addressing. Not to mention, if a blogger wants to match the speed and quantity of information they have to research and report, fast.
In academia, however, it is just the opposite. Because it takes time to get multiple authorities to run experiments, grab information, and cross-reference it with one another, the amount of information being processed is slower. Not to mention doctors are not used to writing outside of academic settings. That means they require those research papers to be the exact opposite of social media language. They need long content, try to eliminate bias, and use a reading/writing level that is far too advanced for the average reader who isn’t a specialist.
Is it any wonder why people are more likely to see fake news over the real thing?
The Solution: Provide Accurate Medical Content Quickly and Spread it
When creating blog posts for your medical website, there is a delicate balance that needs maintenance. You want to both provide informative and accurate information. However, it also needs to be relatable and easy for most people to understand. More often than not, people who write content for medical websites are professional bloggers hired by doctors to research and publish content or doctors that are trying to pick up blogging on the side. Both backgrounds can fall short of creating content that is both informative and easy to read.
The best way to get your medical content in the right direction, no matter what background, is to consolidate between the spread of accurate information, and to make it readable and easy to access. That means doctors learning to embrace shorter and more heartfelt communication methods. And bloggers taking the time to discern good from bad sources of information. If we focus on spreading more good information with sincerity, then we will have a better shot at fighting misinformation.