With the rise of digital news, social media and online browsing, individuals today have far more resources at the tips of their fingers than they did two or three decades ago.

While they once would have had to rely on word-of-mouth for their information or would have had to wait to watch the news on television or read it in next morning’s newspaper, today it is always just one click away.

Of course, this has led to the advent of what has been called “fake news” and to the increase of misinformation throughout nearly every sector of life.

In the medical sector, this misinformation can have dangerous if not deadly consequences. As a nurse, you have an important duty to fight against misinformation while also raising correct awareness of disease prevention, treatments and technologies to protect your patients from undue concern and from behaviors and choices that could harm them.

Address Misinformation

Rather than glossing over something incorrect that your patient said, instead take the time to discuss the point. Although you are often busy in your profession, you can improve patient outcomes by addressing the problem at its root.

Take Time to Educate Patients

Part of changing the culture of misinformation is educating patients through every step of the healthcare process. You should always teach them how to perform self-care, what symptoms they should be looking for and how a disease is supposed to progress.

Always Give Complete Information

It can be easy to try to save time or feelings of grief or anger by not painting complete pictures for your patients. However, many patients can tell when you are holding back from them and will immediately seek out other sources, some of which may be false, for a complete picture.

Discuss Self-Diagnosis Problems

Many patients these days try to diagnose themselves before they ever come into a clinic or hospital. While it can be good for patients to understand their bodies and their usual symptoms, it can be dangerous to look for causes of specific symptoms online. Teach your patients that self-diagnosis typically leads to great anxiety about horrible diseases that are not current problems.

Discuss Home Remedies and Holistic Health

You must also take the time to talk about home remedies with your patients. Find out if they are on any vitamins or other natural supplements as these can significantly interact with certain medications. You should also discuss the positive aspects of holistic health that could help them, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care while warning them that many holistic treatments have not been proven by hard research to work nor have they been approved by the FDA. Partner with groups like ACN-SCAM to help you sort out information that is and isn’t worth sharing.

Give Patients Hard Documents

Always provide your patients with papers or flyers related to their diagnosis, upcoming surgery, home care or medications. Not only will this provide them with real information but also it will show them what organizations are credible.

Tell Patients about Credible Resources

You can also take the time to print out or write down lists of related online organizations that do have accurate information and that patients can visit to find out additional information about their diagnoses. You may also want to give them the names of approved online healthcare forums related to their diagnoses.

Encourage Active Communication

By encouraging patients to contact you via phone or email with any questions and by providing quick answers, you will stop their former habits of turning to the Internet for fast answers. Always be sure to listen carefully to your patients to determine what their real questions or needs are.

While it can be encouraging to see that your patients are interested in doing their own research, you must take care to guide their interest down correct pathways.

As you encourage their interest in their health care, you can help them become involved in their treatments, which can make treatments far more effective.

Be sure to take the time to communicate carefully with each of your patients, to ensure that they have all of their questions answered before they leave your care and to educate them thoroughly so that they do not feel as if they must get information elsewhere.

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