Going back a little to what happened at AIMed North America 2018, we invited patients on stage to share their thoughts about artificial intelligence (AI) in medicine. One of them expressed that most of his perceptions about AI were formed from movies and popular media. 

Indeed, in this era of information boom, all of us are surrounded by details which are as close as a click away. Often, we absorb them so readily that we forget to question their sources and trustworthiness. Other times, we are brought into a concept just because it has been endorsed by many. 

Why medical professionals are the ones? 

Democratization of health and medical information is good. Patients are now armed with better insights into managing their conditions and even discuss treatment options with their physicians. At the same time, medical professionals have the responsibilities to confront any misconceptions that will probably arise. 

Fundamentally, the years of formal training allow medical professionals to possess specialized knowledge and all of whom are licensed to practice medicine. Therefore, when someone expresses a misleading view about medicine, they ought to be the ones who can credibly and ethically address the mistakes. They are also able to direct the public to the right source of information shall there be further queries. 

A recent example will be how Robert F Kennedy Jr’s anti-vaccine tweet was backfired when medical professionals and scientists gathered to debunk it. Freedom of speech had deterred the government from acting on opinions, even if they are false or offensive. Unless the conveyed information contains sales of products, advertising, and economic benefits. 

How to go about doing so? 

Like maintaining physician-patient relation, there is no idea way of addressing a false belief. Earlier, Professor Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Centre, sat to speak with parents who were skeptical about getting their children vaccinated. From there, it was obvious to start addressing the misconception by questioning. In the process, the parents got to share where they received the information from and why do they hold onto their beliefs. 

Next, each of these questions and misunderstandings would be underpinned through explanations and highlighting of facts. Alternative arguments were also used to challenge some of these misguiding thoughts. Last but not least, Professor Kampmann do admit the present healthcare system is not perfect and more research needs to be done in certain areas. However, they should not be excuses to uphold any false beliefs, especially those that threaten public health. 

Ultimately, an open discussion is necessary and crucial. Regardless of the outcomes, all parties should know that they have to be responsible with the decisions they have made. 

Author Bio
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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in current affair, culture and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.