Nursing & Healthcare News

Taking Aim at COVID-19 Misinformation

California physicians may face disciplinary action

Doctor explaining the importance of COVID-19 safety measures

As of January 1, a new state law means that medical providers who spread misinformation about COVID-19 may be subject to disciplinary action against their licenses.

Fighting Falsehoods

According to research by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 78 percent of American adults either believe at least one of eight common falsehoods about COVID-19 or aren’t sure whether those statements are true or false.

The California Legislature is so concerned about the dangers of pandemic-related misinformation that it passed A.B.2098, which authorizes state medical boards to discipline California physicians who “disseminate misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19.” Gov. Newsom signed the bill into law on Sep. 30, 2022.

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Misinformation vs. Disinformation

The new law defines COVID-19 “misinformation” as “false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus contrary to the standard of care.”

“Disinformation” is defined as misinformation that’s spread with malicious intent or to deliberately mislead. Both are now considered unprofessional conduct for a physician licensed in California, and are grounds for disciplinary action if the information is communicated to patients “in the form of treatment or advice.”

What A.B.2098 Means for Nurses

If you work alongside a medical provider you believe is spreading misinformation about COVID-19, you can now take your concerns to their medical board.

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The new law also puts other healthcare professionals on notice. While A.B.2098 only applies to physicians, it’s possible that the Legislature may follow this law with similar bills that apply to nurses, nurse practitioners, and other licensed professionals.

The best practice for all healthcare personnel moving forward will be to carefully document the sources for any medical advice provided to patients about COVID-19. Include a “last updated” date on written communications, and update the information regularly to be sure it reflects current research and the latest orders from public health officials.

Payton Sy, RN, BSN, has experience working in home health, hospital nursing, and primary care. Her passions include patient education and health literacy.

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