22 May 2024, by Emily Proctor

Dutch doctors are facing extra work due to the increasing prevalence of medical misinformation, according to a survey of members of the doctors’ federation KNMG. Increasingly, patients are arriving at consultations in the Dutch healthcare system with concerns about false or misleading health information they have read on the internet

More than half of doctors see a misinformed patient every week 

More than half of the doctors surveyed by NOS and KNMG said that they see at least one patient a week who has fallen for health-related misinformation spread online. Examples of such misinformation include the idea that sunscreen is carcinogenic, catching whooping cough could benefit your child’s development and that deodorant is linked to serious illnesses – all of which are medically unproven claims that can have dangerous consequences. 

The amount of appointments given to medically misinformed patients has a significant impact on doctors, says the study. For 14 percent of doctors, multiple medically misinformed patients show up at their surgeries every day. “That number is surprisingly high,” KNMG chairman René Héman told NOS.

Hormone, vaccine and vitamin misinformation is common online

When it comes to medical misinformation, there are several themes that crop up time and again. Vitamins, vaccines and hormones are often the target of misinformation online, with some going so far as to even profiteer from their claims. Since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine misinformation has skyrocketed online, along with claims about contraceptive medication and hormones. 

“It is a huge burden for doctors,” Héman told NOS. “The workload is already so high. Providing good information takes time and that can be at the expense of patient care. Doctors do not want that and that causes stress.”

General practitioner Anneke Aarts from Breda told NOS that she agrees, stating “I take the time for everyone, but you shouldn’t have three of those appointments in a row, otherwise things will go wrong… It takes a lot of time to redirect people, and some cannot be redirected. People do not always accept what you say. Then those conversations can be very annoying.”

Thumb image credit: arindambanerjee / Shutterstock.com

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