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Doctor forms team to stop spread of fake medical news

Justin Cabrera

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If you’re a frequent social media user, you’ve probably encountered posts spreading misinformation about medical topics like vaccinations. According to a study published in ScienceDirect, top posts on social media relating to common diseases contained misinformation 40% of the time.

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It’s easy to see why people turn to fake medical news. These posts often promise cheap, powerful miracle cures to common ailments. Factual medical information, on the other hand, is significantly less flashy and optimistic, often only promising moderate success. It’s completely understandable that a person who has a disease that makes their life miserable would skip over all of the pessimistic posts regarding realistic treatment in favor of fantastical stories about miracle recoveries. However, this creates false hope and can discourage patients from seeking legitimate treatment.

No one knows the harm that fake medical news can cause more than Dr. Austin Chiang. An internet-savvy, Harvard-educated gastroenterologist, Dr. Chiang has over 20,000 followers on social media. Dr. Chiang uses his online platform to spread factual but digestible medical advice. Whereas most doctors on Instagram are hopelessly drab, Dr. Chiang presents himself as relatable yet knowledgeable.

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Diagnosing cancer (or pre-cancerous) lesions often isn’t black of white. 🧐 It’s like piecing a puzzle of information together between appearance on different imaging modalities (CT, MRI, EUS) + needle sampling + medical history + clinical picture. 🧩 . ❗️Nowadays, only 200 microliters of pancreatic cyst fluid is required to test for some tumor markers like carcinogenic embryonic antigen (CEA) and DNA mutations. 💧Also included in the analysis is detection of KRAS and GNAS mutations, which might indicate certain types of mucinous cysts…some of which could become cancer one day. 💉 . . . #cancer #diagnosis #science #biology #doctor #cancersucks #pancreaticcancer #cyst #meded #puzzle #mystery #usmle #medico #醫生 #癌 #健康 #hospital #health

A post shared by Austin C. MD MPH 。 GI Doctor (@austinchiangmd) on

While Dr. Chiang’s charming social media posts have gotten him a sizeable audience, his follower count pales in comparison to that of big anti-vax and alternative medicine accounts. He called this massive social media presence “the greatest health crisis of our time.” Realizing he can’t combat these campaigns on his own, Dr. Chiang set out to assemble a team of like-minded healthcare professionals to fight misinformation, forming the Association for Healthcare Social Media (AHSM)

Dr. Chiang is using his position as Chief Medical Social Media Officer of Jefferson Health to recruit other savvy professionals. Dr. Chiang and his team are well aware that the public does not salivate over professional medical journals and press releases, and his team is hard at work packaging medical information for the social media age. The AHSM knows that scare tactics and emotional manipulation are what spreads in the medical social media sphere, and they use the opposite approach of easily understandable language and concise information told in a non-condescending manner.

With platforms like Instagram and Facebook facing huge issues with anti-vax accounts and other fake medical news spam, doctors taking to social media is the antidote we need moving forward. By combining legit medical knowledge with the hugely popular inspirational lifestyle aesthetic, medical professionals can build up huge followings to fight harmful medical advice.

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