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Federation of State Medical Boards introduces misinformation policy

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During its annual meeting, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) announced a medical misinformation and disinformation policy. The guidance contains recommendations for medical professionals and for state medical boards when drafting their own policies.

Speaking to MedPage Today, FSMB’s president Humayun Chaudhry said: “More than 2 years into this pandemic, the largest threat next to the spread of the virus itself is the spread of disinformation and misinformation.”

He noted that the guidance “sets the tone – that truthful and accurate information is central to the provision of quality medical care.”

“We acknowledge early on that [medical misinformation] isn’t new,” he continued. “But it’s important to keep in mind that when there is misinformed decision making, it can cause needless harm, including deaths.”

Throughout the pandemic, doctors have been suspended or fired for publicly going against many of state narratives on social media or otherwise.

For boards, the guidance recommends adopting misinformation and disinformation policies that clarify “board expectations regarding the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation by licensees.”

Related: Doctors warned that they could lose their license for contradicting CDC

Chaudhry encouraged the state boards that do not have the necessary language in their policies to take action against misinformation to adopt “a specific policy on misinformation is encouraged in light of the increased prevalence of and harm caused by physician misinformation in this ongoing pandemic.”

Related: UK’s General Medical Council to restrict what doctors can say online

He also said that not all misinformation cases should result in disciplinary action as there are instances where the medical professional does not know they are engaging in misinformation.

The guidance also insists that state medical boards should “retain their legislated authority to regulate the professional conduct of licensees in order to effectively protect the public.” Several states, including Tennessee, have proposed bills that could undermine the authority of state boards.

For medical professionals, the guidance recommends the administration of treatment based on consensus or evidence, or “appropriate scientific rationale and justification.”

Medical professionals are also advised to discuss treatments with patients and be transparent about the risks and benefits, as well as viable alternatives.

Medical professionals are advised to be up to date with “evolving scientific evidence and practice standards.”

When handling patients, especially those that have been misinformed, medical professionals are advised to respectfully listen.

“Don’t interrupt the patient and make sure you understand what the concern is before you offer guidance,” Chaudhry said.

“I think there’s an undertone throughout the document about the need for thoughtful, civil discussions among colleagues and with patients,” he added. “Patients may come in with preconceived notions, but they should be engaged with respectfully and honestly.”

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