This doctor is going to drown out fake health news on social media

Austin Chiang, a Harvard-trained gastroenterologist with a passion for social media, is making it his mission to get more doctors and health professionals on social media to drown out health misinformation.

Dr Chiang is the first chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health and believes that untrustworthy content such as tweets, posts and pictures on social media from medical experts should be flushed out.

The 'biggest crisis'

With a following of 20 000 on Instagram, Dr Chiang is one of the most influential doctors on social media. He often shares images on Instagram with captions about the latest health insights or research from conferences that he attends. Occasionally, he offers advice to patients trying to differentiate between rumours and real information.  

Chiang knows that his following is much smaller compared to accounts with millions of followers that share false medical information. He has noticed that misleading anti-vaccination content is far more prominent than legitimate public health information. "This is the biggest crisis we have right now in healthcare, everyone should be out there, but I realise I'm one of the few," he told CNBC.

According to Chiang, doctors are reluctant to build a following on social media due to the fact that they see it as a waste of time; they don't know how to use social media; or they fear that they may say the wrong thing and get in trouble with their employers. Most doctors prefer spending time communicating with their peers through academic journals. 

Public awareness campaigns

Chiang is working hard to recruit an army of physicians, patient advocates, nurses and other health professionals. At the moment, he's working on Jefferson Health with other doctors in his specialty and has been brainstorming guidelines for health professionals on how to use new digital tools, such as disclosing conflicts of interest.

To spread the word, he's created a new group called the Association for Healthcare Social Media (AHSM). He has also started a few hashtag-driven public awareness campaigns such as #verifyhealthcare and #dontgoviral.

Image credits: iStock