COVID outcomes were negatively affected by misinformation
Almost three in four physicians said medical misinformation hindered their ability to treat COVID-19 patients and hurt outcomes. The Morning Consult/de Beaumont Foundation poll found that both physicians and the American public agree that misinformation is a problem and that doctors should be held accountable for intentionally spreading false information – a sentiment that most physicians also agreed with.
The poll found that 72% of physicians said misinformation made it harder to treat patients for COVID and the same percentage said it hurt patient outcomes. Almost half (44%) of physicians estimate that more than half the COVID information they see, read, and hear from patients is misinformation.
In addition to misinformation about COVID-19, more than two-thirds of physicians said misinformation is also a problem in the areas of weight loss, dietary supplements, mental health, and other vaccines.
“These findings are important for two reasons,” said Brian C. Castrucci, DrPH, president and CEO of de Beaumont. “First, it shows that despite the voices of a small majority, physicians almost universally agree that COVID vaccines are safe and effective. Second, misinformation isn’t going away. It’s not a COVID problem, but one that pervades many areas of health.”
The poll findings also suggest that Americans may trust their doctors more than doctors think. Nearly 7 in 10 physicians (68%) said they think patient trust has decreased over the past two years. But among the general population, only 21% said their trust in physicians has decreased, while 75% said it has increased or stayed about the same.
Regarding misinformation, more than half of physicians (51%) said misinformation spread by physicians is a problem. More than three in four (77%) said medical boards should discipline physicians for medical misinformation, but they are less supportive (65%) of passing laws that hold physicians accountable.
Where do people get their information about medical care and treatment? The Internet is a primary source of information for both physicians and the public. More than 8 in 10 physicians said they trust medical/scientific journals, Internet searches, and colleagues; while other adults said they trust Internet searches much more than any other source.
The survey sampled 806 U.S. physicians who spend at least half their time providing direct patient care and 2,210 U.S. adults.