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Experience and perspectives of primary care practitioners on the credibility assessment of health-related information online
  1. Samuel P Trethewey1,
  2. Kathryn J Beck1,
  3. Rehan F Symonds1
  1. Oak Tree Surgery, Liskeard, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Samuel P Trethewey, Oak Tree Surgery, Clemo Road, Liskeard PL143XA, UK; s-trethewey{at}

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The internet has enabled widespread dissemination of health-related information to global audiences. However, the unfiltered nature of many online sources puts the public at risk of receiving false or misleading information.1 A recent meta-narrative systematic review of 153 cross-sectional studies evaluating 11 785 websites found that the quality of online health information is suboptimal.2 There is a growing concern within the scientific and clinical communities regarding the public health problem that is medical misinformation on the internet.3

The concept of misinformation has evolved over recent years and shares some conceptual overlap with the terms ‘fake news’ and ‘disinformation’.4 The popularised term ‘fake news’ has been defined as ‘fabricated information that mimics news media content in form but not in organizational process or intent’ while ‘disinformation’ has been defined as ‘false information that is purposely spread to deceive people’.4 Misinformation has been more broadly defined as information that is ‘false or misleading’ and thus can be considered an umbrella term encompassing all types of false or misleading information, regardless of intent or awareness of the information sharer.4

Various strategies have been suggested to combat medical misinformation online; however, there is a paucity of data supporting the use of specific countermeasures.5 The primary care setting may offer opportunities to educate patients regarding how to navigate the online world of health-related information. For example, clinicians could signpost patients to evidence-based online resources in addition to encouraging scepticism and providing basic tips on how to identify medical misinformation online.5 However, to our knowledge, there exists no data exploring UK primary care practitioners’ experiences and perspectives on the credibility assessment of health-related information online.

We distributed an anonymous, online, cross-sectional survey to general practitioners (GPs) and nurses at a National Health Service (NHS) primary care practice in the …

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  • Contributors SPT designed the study, carried out data collection and analysis and wrote the manuscript. KJB and RFS contributed to study design and data analysis and critical revision of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.