The Dangers of Fake Medical News | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog


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The Dangers of Fake Medical News

Fact vs. Fiction: How to Identify Fake Health News

Fake news isn’t just about politics, it’s also massively problematic in the medical world. As people turn to the internet to research their symptoms, illnesses, medications, and more, it’s easy to be misled by information that seems legitimate.

Separating truth from fiction isn’t easy, but there are specific tricks you can use to spot fake medical news.

A real-life example of fake medical news

In this op-ed from the New York Times Dr. Haider Warraich opens with a frightening scenario: a woman was rushed to the hospital after suffering a heart attack during a yoga class. Dr. Warraich soon saw that her cholesterol levels were extremely elevated. “She had been prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin medication, but she never picked up the prescription because of the scary things she had read about statins on the internet,” he explained in the article. “She was the victim of a malady fast gearing up to be a modern pandemic — fake medical news.”

According to a number of studies, the benefits of statins outweigh the risks by a long margin, especially for people with a high risk of heart disease.

The myths around vaccines

Dr. Warraich also cited in the article the falsehoods surrounding the side effects of vaccines, including linking their use to autism. However, medical professionals and scientific literature remain adamant that vaccines are safe and effective.

If you’re unsure as to what immunizations to get and when for you or your children, ask your health care team including RMHP’s Quality Improvement team at 970-263-5552. As part of the RMHP Whole Person Care, there are board-certified physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and health care providers on staff to assist with answering these questions.

How to spot fake medical news

Statins and vaccines are far from the only types of fake medical news circulating online. You’ll also find hyped-up claims about cancer cures and causes, inflated tales about the side effects of life-saving medications, and more.

With so much fake health news, what should you do to stay safe? Start by asking yourself the following questions when reading an article:

  • Is the author/website publishing this information a credible source?
  • Does the author have a medical background or relevant degree?
  • Are the conclusions based off reputable sources, like peer-reviewed studies, government reports, and expert opinions?

Additionally, use these tips to weed out inaccurate and misleading information:

  • Ask your physician which medical journals, publications, or websites they personally trust.
  • Work on developing a relationship with your medical providers so you will feel more comfortable asking questions.
  • Pay attention to the language being used in health articles. Hyped-up claims like “miracle cure!” are generally a sign of fake news.
  • To protect your friends and family, always check the accuracy of medical claims before sharing articles on social media.

Health issues can be incredibly scary, but don’t let fear overtake the logical side of your brain. If you want to stay safe from fake medical news, approach everything you read online with a hefty dose of skepticism. When in doubt, ask your doctor.