Addressing tensions when popular media and evidence-based care collide

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Background: Health care news stories have the potential to inform and educate news consumers and health-care consumers about the tradeoffs involved in health-care decisions about treatments, tests, products, and procedures. These stories have the potential to influence not only individual decision making but also the broader public dialogue about health-care reform. For the past 7 years, a Web-based project called has evaluated news stories to try to improve health-care journalism and the quality and flow of information to consumers. Analysis. applies 10 standardized criteria to the review of news stories that include claims about medical interventions. Two or three reviewers evaluate each story. The team has evaluated more than 1,800 stories by more than a dozen leading U.S. news organizations. About 70% have received unsatisfactory scores based on application of these criteria: reporting on costs, quantifying potential benefits, and quantifying potential harms. Conclusions: Inaccurate, imbalanced, incomplete news stories may drown out more careful scrutiny of the evidence by many influential news organizations. Unquestioned claims and assertions about the benefits of medical interventions are passed on to the American public daily by journalists who are supposed to vet independently any such claims. Communication about these issues is, in itself, a major health-policy issue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberS3
JournalBMC medical informatics and decision making
Issue numberSUPPL.3
StatePublished - Dec 6 2013

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