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‘Medfluencers’ against medical misinformation

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, social networks were implemented as key tools for the media and the entertainmentespecially in the weeks marked by childbirth, and they were meditating of the effects of the health crisis on mental health. But above all, they became a platform to find and share information related to the coronavirus. The amount of information exchanged was such that the World Health Organization (WHO) began using the term informativeand he warned about the need to stop the erroneous facts being spread.

In this sea of ​​information, the doctors were able to act as a reliable source for those citizens who were looking for news about the disease or information related to symptoms. In this way, a trend emerged: the trend of those medical professionals who started sharing valuable content on their social networks and became benchmarks for the virtual community. influencers with his own name: medfluencers.

The impact of ‘medfluencers’ on user education

How to stand out among thousands of people talking about the same thing? The increase in the number of users on social networks due to COVID-19 can be seen in the figures collected by We are Social and hoot series, which states that close to 60% of the global population is already active in one of these accounts and they cover more than 10% than the previous year. On the other hand, about 27% of internet users worldwide consult their properties on the web, especially the population between 25 and 44 years of age.

To understand how medfluencers began their journey in the networks, the doctor Paulina Zúñiga, medfluencer With more than 1 million followers on TikTok, he explains his situation: “He was just bored standing in front of the camera in a dress and a stethoscope.” This way, she knew she could address the misinformation being reported and calm the digital community in the friendliest way possible. After the pandemic, some doctors like Paulina managed to establish a community and they now seek to consolidate it to change people’s awareness, creating a real interest in their health.

Various investigations in the health sector talk about how traditional medical activities will be completely transformed towards digital and analytical tools in two years. This goes hand in hand with the digital transformation of the sector and the appearance of new user expectations (patients and non-patients) regarding medical information.

As stated by a article of the US National Academy of Medicine (NAM), the sources of information must have the following characteristics: be based on science, be objective, transparent and responsible, so that they create credibility since more sophisticated consumers in terms of understanding; they consider what they see on platforms like TikTok, Instagram or Facebook reliable depending on these criteria. This generates a constant demand for information that is increasingly complex but digestible, relevant and within easy access.

With the above, a challenge arises for medical professionals: to ensure that the information shared is specialized and, even more, that it is clear to those navigating social networks.

The challenges of ‘medfluencers’

To understand the impact of health information received on social media, Organa global healthcare company, four workshops with 24 medfluencers Spanish and Portuguese speakers, with a high level of influence in at least two social networks with between 10,000 and one million followers.

With these forums it was possible to give details on the major challenges faced by doctors influencers face when it comes to positioning themselves on social networks:

  • The fight against wrong information. One of the risks associated with networks is their power to amplify misinformation that puts users’ health at risk. For example, in the USA there was a shortage of diabetes drugs after Elon Musk and the presenter Andy Cohen mentioned that they used them to lose weight, and that a trend became popular on TikTok that asked to use these products to lose weight. In these cases, doctors have taken it upon themselves to talk to users about the implications of these drugs.

  • Creating friendly content. Don influencers, Creating content that appeals to your fans and attracts new audiences is often a challenge. The IS medfluencers They also face an additional challenge: providing information in a digestible way that, in turn, manages to reverse the damage caused by misinformation. For example, the confusion, insecurity or even disorders that could cause dieting, challenges and exercises influencers from the world of non-professional fitness.

  • Credibility for users. Patients and non-patients seek to generate connections with those who follow them in the networks, especially the younger ones. 70% of teenagers trust more i influencers than traditional celebrities, and in fact, four out of 10 millennials they claim to be theirs influencers better understand them better than their friends, accordingly statistics from the Digital Marketing Institute and HubSpot. Therefore, the medfluencers they must be transparent, intimate and try to be open — even in a personal way — to their audience.

  • Your public figure has been accepted. In accordance with the conclusions reached in the workshops, don medfluencers it was relatively easy to get approval from the user, but they have to deal with some pushback from their own community: doctors who have stereotyped networking as unprofessional. Therefore, they work daily to demonstrate the importance of the digital medical community to everyone’s healthcare.

  • Dealing with hate on social media. As with anyone who exposes himself on the networks, a social presence means that there has to be a fate of followers, colleagues or people who did not understand or misunderstand the message. The IS medfluencer Paulina Zuñiga says: “You need great preparation and courage to raise your voice in front of thousands of people who often only make hateful comments.”

Why be a ‘medfluencer’? The professionals were encouraged

In response to the challenges collected, Organon is in a continuous learning process to provide doctors with the best tools that aim to educate the population, generate influence through social networks and deliver high quality information to users .

The relevance of the medfluencers The high number of actors they interact with: the digital, pharmaceutical and med tech; public administration; NGOs, regulators and health service providers; and patients and everyone they communicate with on social media.

The argument goes beyond popularity or having many followers, it is about the future of medical information, as mentioned by the medical director of Organon Latin America, Juan Marques: “As doctors, it is our responsibility to fight misinformation on social networks”. This commitment has now been encouraged to consolidate a network of trust by and on behalf of physicians, healthcare providers, patients and users.

For all these reasons, Organon has identified four approaches medfluencers can be adopted to meet the different needs of the audience:

  1. coaching: to provide advice in an intimate way to have an informed population of patients who can take better care of their health.

  2. Catalyst: communicate information about specific symptoms from which followers can seek general medical attention.

  3. informative: openly discuss topics deemed socially relevant in the healthcare industry to educate users.

  4. ambitious: share their medical expertise and become benchmark leaders in their medical field, primarily informing their peers.

These approaches aim to make a difference within social networks, in educating patients and non-patients, as well as promoting collaboration among physicians.

Will the ‘medfluencers’ succeed in combating misinformation on social media?

Thanks to social networks, medicine is closer to people and doctors can reach patients who could not be reached in any other way. The IS medfluencers They know that it is worth every effort and challenge to publicize health, as well as to change people’s consciousness.

Creating genuine interest in health is the first step to generating change in society, and it is the responsibility of the entire health community to have reliable agents who provide quality information and combat misinformation.

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