Gary Schwitzer is the founder and publisher of HealthNewsReview.org. He has pursued stories about patient harm from misleading media messages since the mid-1980s when he produced a CNN special, “Hope or Hype.”
April 17, 2018 is our 12th anniversary of daily publishing. From the time we launched HealthNewsReview.org 12 years ago, we have been concerned about the very real harm that can be done to some patients from misleading media messages. Our project is perhaps the only one in the U.S. that provides the general public the tools to protect themselves from misinformation. By demonstrating how we evaluate evidence as we critically analyze news stories and PR news releases, we show citizens how they can hone their own critical thinking.
We use a broad definition of “media messages” when we look at the potential for harm from misleading information. In that definition we include news stories, advertising and/or marketing campaigns, public relations efforts, messages disseminated by conflicted patient advocacy groups, popular books, magazines, talk shows, journal publishing practices – any broadly distributed medium or format that can reach large portions of the population. The harm occurs when people believe and act on what they read or hear in imbalanced, inaccurate, incomplete and misleading information.
We applaud other publishers’ efforts in the patient safety realm, most notably ProPublica’s initiative called The Voices of Patient Harm.
Our staff is much smaller and our focus will be narrower – not on patient harm from health care interventions, but patient harm that occurred because of misinformation in some of the ways described above.
In our occasional series that we will work on for the rest of 2018, you will learn from a variety of patient stories.
In the past, we already told some stories that fit into this category. Some of them were recorded in podcasts.
I want to emphasize that I don’t think that any of these episodes of media-induced harm are intentional. Unintentional though the harm may be, it is, nonetheless, very real.
We invite our readers to send us your stories if they fit the description above.
You can leave a comment after this blog post, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please provide as much information as you can, and, if you’re willing, provide a phone number in case we want to call you to get more background.