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Post by Building Trust

Countering medical misinformation through social media

While medical mis- and disinformation about numerous health topics have long run rampant online, the dissemination of misleading information during the COVID-19 pandemic was unprecedented, leading to vaccine avoidance, mask refusal, and the use of unfounded medications.

This conversation explores how medical misinformation is impacting the physician community and making it harder for clinicians to build trust with their patients and colleagues. The speakers offer ways for clinicians to have conversations about misinformation in the exam room and online, as well as provide resources and suggestions for clinicians that want to play an active role in mitigating misinformation on social media.

Hussain Lalani, MD, MPH, is a board-certified internist and fellow at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. His research focuses on understanding the challenges and inequities patients face in accessing affordable prescription drugs and evaluating the impact of health policies and interventions. Hussain is a first-generation Muslim-American from Dallas, TX, who trained in medicine at Duke University School of Medicine and public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital. His research has been published broadly, including in the Annals of Internal Medicine and JAMA Internal Medicine, and he is a frequent opinion contributor on health policy, public health, and health misinformation. He serves on the National Steering Committee of Doctors for America’s Drug Affordability Action Team, and is the Co-Founder of #ThisIsOurShot and VacunateYa, national grassroots organizations that combat misinformation and elevate the voices of trusted medical professionals on social media.

David Scales, MPhil, MD, PhD, is an internal medicine hospitalist and medical sociologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and Chief Medical Officer at Critica, an NGO focused on building scientific literacy. His dissertation examined how the World Health Organization seeks to control the spread of diseases across international borders. His post-doc was at HealthMap.org at Harvard Medical School in spatial epidemiology, using non-traditional sources for epidemic disease detection. He completed a primary care Internal Medicine residency at Cambridge Health Alliance. His research focuses on medical communication in clinical and online settings with his current research focus on understanding how to address misinformation within communities as well as how structural factors affect our information environments to allow misinformation to propagate and misconceptions to persist. Dr. Scales’ work leverages qualitative and quantitative methods to the problem of misinformation, training “infodemiologists” to build COVID-19 vaccine confidence in online communities with community-oriented motivational interviewing. He has also written about applying models of epidemic disease surveillance and response as a guide to the problem of misinformation.