"Drowning from infoxication" - June 30 digest from HealthNewsReview.org


Trying to improve the public dialogue about health care

  Drowning from infoxication 
(health information intoxication)

That's a phrase I often use in my talks.  This week I wrote, "We are losing people, drowning them in a sea of questionable or downright useless health information."  Here is some of what motivated me to write that. 

Last week I noted sharp reaction by smart readers to a couple of posts on the New York Times' "Well" blog - and I agreed with the readers. 
  •  A mouse fitness study was reported as if it had immediate implications for humans.  I think we're losing people when we put mouse research on what's labeled as a personal health/wellness blog. I cite other examples on Time.com and Boston.com. 
But I also praised a Times "New Old Age" blog for a piece about "When Advance Directives Are Ignored.
 
 
"Exploitative, fearmongering, unethical, overdiagnosis, more harm than good, not scientifically shown to provide meaningful benefit"...just a few concerns raised by watchdog group Public Citizen about hospitals partnering with a commercial screening test company
 
There was wide variation in the quality of journalism about a study touting 3-D mammography.  I gave examples from two ends of the quality spectrum.  It was a case study in what a difference independent perspectives, asking tough questions, and independently vetting claims - not just practicing journal stenography - can make for ensuring accuracy, balance and completeness in health care news. I was interviewed about this on the Healthstyles program of the Center for Health Media & Policy at Hunter College on WBAI radio in New York City.
 
From the UK, another gem from Dr. Richard Lehman's weekly BMJ journal review blog. "A bionic pancreas! The true and Holy Grail!" he proclaimed with tongue in cheek and pen in hand. Again, I provided examples on the spectrum of how that technology was reported: from breathless enthusiasm to simple context and caution about over-reaction. 
 
The Guardian published a surprisingly fawning and simplistic news story about a hospital's robotic surgery system. Meantime, a journal article on "The impact of marketing language on patient preference for robot-assisted surgery" made me reflect on the double whammy of marketing and news that looks like marketing
 
Finally, a couple of in-case-you-missed-it items: 
 

 

AHCJ Philly 3
Gary Schwitzer                     
Publisher, HealthNewsReview.org  
Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Minnesota School of Public Health                                                                 




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