The spread of health misinformation was declared a serious public health threat by the U.S. Surgeon General. Before accepting new clinical information that appears sensational, emotionally charged, or reminiscent of “click bate,” find the original study and evaluate it. Scientific research is often a careful, iterative process that reveals limited amounts of information at a time. A dramatic or over-reaching conclusion can be a sign of misinformation.
Understanding the foundations of clinical research design can assist in identifying misinformation and better educating our patients. As an example, evidence-based information regarding quantitative analysis, such as randomized controlled trials (RCTs), will generally have components of “PICOTS:”
Application of a study’s findings is typically limited to the study’s PICOTS parameters. If health information is presented to you in a way that dramatizes or over-simplifies the conclusion – such as omitting key components of PICOTS, think twice about sharing it on social media or with patients.