Doctors in the U.S. believe that the medical mis-information problem is worsening, learned in survey research from Merck Manuals. Doctors and patients, both, have roles to play in addressing medical misinformation online.










Less than half of consumers, 44%, said that that there is more medical mis-information online than previously. That’s less than half of the percentage of doctors saying so — 98%, virtually all U.S. physicians, citing the problem.

There were several disconnects noted in the Merck Manuals study showing starkly different perceptions of health information online between doctors and patients: 20% of Americans said they self-diagnose based on information they find online and in social media, vs. 92% of doctors finding that patients come to the exam room with self-diagnosed conditions

Patients’ self-diagnosing conditions online is a new-normal for people engaging with health information online — whether via WebMD and the or via TikTok — a growing platform for medical information.

Given the mass uptake of patients’ self-diagnosing, Merck Manuals asserts that “patients and medical professionals both have a role to play” in addressing mis-information:

  • For patients, to take the extra steps to consider the source of the information and discussing their situations with an “open mind” with their clinicians; and,
  • For doctors and other health care professionals, to empower patients to access and source sound medical information that can bolster the patient-clinician relationship and, ultimately, patients’ health outcomes.








To bolster the quality of medical information for all stakeholders, especially patients, MSD Manuals developed the Global Medical Knowledge initiative.

This program includes a tool patients can use to “authenticate” medical information using the acronym “STANDS:”

  • Source: Does the resource cite recognized authorities and provide their credentials?
  • Transparency: Is it open and obvious whether the site’s mission is educational or commercial?
  • Accessibility: Is the site available without registration, and is there a way for users to contact someone with questions or concerns?
  • Neutrality: Is the information available purely as a resource, or does the site benefit financially from what its users do (such as buying products or visiting advertised websites)?
  • Documentation: Is the site updated when needed by recognized medical experts?
  • Security: Can users access content without forfeiting personal information?

The consumer survey of 2,044 U.S. adults was conducted for Merck Manuals by The Harris Poll.

The doctor survey was conducted of 263 physicians by Merck Manuals at the Family Medical Experience conference.











Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Last week, Dr. Anthony Fauci made what was probably his last speech from his NIH/White House bully pulpit speaking about stepping down from 54 years of public service serving Americans’ public health.

In this new essay on the NIH portal, Dr. Fauci “reflects on the perpetual challenge of infectious disease.”

That “perpetual challenge” was the theme of his insightful Perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine titled, in Fauci-accessible-fashion, “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over….but It’s Never Over – Emerging and Reemerging Infectious Diseases.”

I worked with life science companies and social health education programs when AIDS emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s, early in my career as a health care consultant. Then, Dr. Fauci was a pioneering force for information, science, and good in the battle against the infectious disease, which disproportionately impacted some population groups more than others in its earliest months.

At the same time, social networks formed — mostly offline, as there wasn’t an open Internet yet (nor smartphones!). So health citizens came together to form ACT UP and the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, and publications like POZ and The Advocate published accessible and current information to inform and empower people diagnosed with AIDS and the evolving knowledge about HIV and prevention.

This week, Gil Bashe, FINN Partners Chair Global Healt and Purpose published an essay in Medika Life, Implementing AI – Artificial, Augmented, or Amplified – is Complex and Unavoidable. In this piece,  Gil observed that,

“The United States lags behind European and Asian countries that offer universal health coverage and preventive medical services. But there are many reasons why we continue to plow more money into this health system. Essentially, we lack the resolve to transform the health ecosystem into a value-based care model. We are timid about investing in technology training for health professionals and supporting predictive algorithms that track consumers across varied doctor visits, medication use and diagnostic exams…..The COVID-19 pandemic revealed health system fragility and the pressing need to reach people with a history of heart disease and diabetes and weight management needs. These people needed greater interventional attention to prevent the clinical domino effect of the pandemic.”

In the COVID-19 public health emergency, the U.S. also needed to have a collective baseline agreement about “facts” in the pandemic era, especially by de-politicizing the evolving learnings as research and data revealed them in real-time.













The Edelman Trust Barometer in 2022 found that Americans’ level of distrust with government and media are very high. Trust with health systems is greater, but still lacking resilience year-on-year.

It’s physicians, nurses, and pharmacists who are most-trusted across every profession in the U.S. That’s where the Merck Manuals’ research can help us better understand the opportunity to channel sound medical evidence in accessible formats via trustworthy media channels (both traditional and social) to help build back trust and health citizens’ engagement with the health system and public health institutions and voices — as Dr. Fauci did in the 1980s all the way through the early 2020s…

Postscript 11-30-22

As if on-cue, today Twitter announced the platform would not reinforce mis-information about COVID-19 and the coronavirus ongoing.