The pressures of ignorance and disinformation on expertise

Focusing on health professionals, the case study seeks answers to the question of how interactions between physicians, nurses and patients is altering under the pressure and challenges of the institutional authority of health professionals caused by the spreading of disinformation in social media. Traditionally, health care institutions and their professionals have enjoyed high social status and esteem in Finnish society. However, there have been an increasing number of signals indicating that lay people are challenging medical counsel, disputing conventional medical knowledge and professional competence. In our previous studies (Torkkola, 2015) it has been shown that medical authority is challenged by lay people in various ways on social media, with themes such as vaccination hesitance and increased use of complementary and alternative medicine emerging. Furthermore, the analysis of Internet discussion groups showed that after a consultation with a doctor, patients asked for a second opinion from other lay people. Sinikka Torkkola and Anna Sendra Toset examine how health professionals identify signals of pressure on medical knowledge and institutional authority in social media and how those change the interaction between health providers and patients. The proposed research outlines how social media is connected to the dynamism of intentionally or unintentionally created misinformation or collective ignorance.

Data will be gathered by a survey given to nurses and medical practitioners working in the Pirkanmaa Hospital District at its Tampere University Hospital. The survey questions focus on how health professionals negotiate with patients and what kinds of pressures and changes they are facing in medical consultations and care work. The respondents will be asked what form of social media they have used, and based on these answers a sample of social media will be selected for further analysis. The survey of the Pirkanmaa Hospital district workforce will be conducted in 2019.