By some estimates, as much as 55% of the health information found online is inaccurate, misleading or contrary to current medical science. Add to this the amplification of misinformation that happens via social media and it is no wonder why healthcare is being met with skepticism when promoting “healthy behaviors”. The Well, a website from Northwell Health, is tackling this challenge head-on.
Before we get too far, it’s helpful to define “health misinformation” – a term that has become more nebulous during the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research defined it as follows:
“A health-related claim that is based on anecdotal evidence, false, or misleading owing to the lack of existing scientific knowledge. This general definition would consider, on the one hand, information that is false but not created with the intention of causing harm (ie, misinformation) and, on the other, information that is false or based on reality but deliberately created to harm a particular person, social group, institution, or country (ie, disinformation and malinformation).”
The authors make the distinction between misinformation (no intent of causing harm) and disinformation (actively intent on causing harm). At the risk of adding to the confusion, the term misinformation will be used to refer to both for the rest of this article.
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Most of the articles on the site are a 5-minute read, or less, and are relatively free of medical jargon. In other words, the articles are written for public consumption rather than by medial peers.
This approach is perfectly aligned with The Well’s stated mission:
“In this time of information overabundance, much of which is inaccurate, unhelpful or even difficult to understand, Northwell Health is on a mission to make a difference as an honest, trusted and caring partner. We’re connecting with consumers to provide them with personalized content that reduces their stress, makes them laugh and ultimately feel more confident and capable on their healthcare journey.”
Winning the 2020 Medigy HITMC Award
The simple site navigation, constant stream of top-notch content and focus on credible health information helped The Well win the 2020 Medigy HITMC Award for Website of the Year in the provider category. We caught up with Julie Shapiro, Senior Manager of Digital Chanel Strategy at Northwell and Editor-in-Chief at The Well who had this to say about the recognition:
“Winning the 2020 HITMC Award for Website of the Year was a huge thrill for our team. Our goal has always been to make our reader experience as seamless, rich and useful as possible. We strive to be a partner and trusted resource to all people. Being able to meet our readers where they are in their wellness journeys and provide them with the information they need, in the way they need it, is everything to us.”
“Our team is small but mighty – we have only two people dedicated to The Well full-time. But we have many incredible partners both within Northwell and outside of the health system who have been instrumental in helping us achieve our goals. Right now we are working on site enhancements that will improve the reader’s experience by giving them easier access to the information they are looking for. And as always, we are stocking the site with the most up to date information on COVID-19 and vaccinations, as well as everyday lifestyle and wellness content.”
The need for The Well
In 2015, a literature analysis was done on 165 articles, published between 2002 and 2013 on the quality of health information available online. That analysis revealed that upwards of 55% of the information was found to be misleading or inaccurate. This was an improvement over prior studies that found 70% misinformation.
One of the most effective ways to combat misinformation is collaborative use of the Internet between healthcare professionals and patients. By reviewing scientifically accurate articles from trusted sources together, patients will not only get helpful information, they will also learn how to distinguish good articles from misinformation.
Raising the level of health literacy is the best way to combat health misinformation. It is encouraging to see sites like The Well leading the fight with timely, relevant, and easy-to-read articles.