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Doctors exhausted after battling 'infodemic' on top of pandemic

hospital heroes
Posted at 4:40 PM, Feb 11, 2022

BELLEVUE, Wa. — Even as they're learning more about defeating COVID-19, doctors are up against another contender.

"When the vaccine came out and we felt everybody felt that the pandemic was ending or going to end soon, but now, you know, another year has dragged on and, and we really don't see the end in sight," said Dr. Radha Agrawal, a pulmonary and critical care physician at Overlake Hospital in Washington State.

The second contender being a pandemic of misinformation, or as the World Health Organization calls is an infodemic: “false or misleading information” that “causes confusion and risk-taking behaviors that can harm health” and “leads to mistrust in health authorities.”

Dr. Agrawal and Dr. Ed Leonard, an infectious disease physician at Overlake, say they are battling misinformation daily in interactions with COVID-19 patients, when they argue about their treatments or don't believe their diagnosis.

"Every day, we're learning something new about the pandemic, and sometimes, what we learn kind of makes what we said yesterday obsolete," said Dr. Leonard, "and so, that kind of leads to a confusion in the public of all the way that you just said yesterday, this now we're doing this."

"They have their mind made up, they've thought about it and they've decided, and they really don't value my input in terms of what they should do," said Dr. Agrawal.

From doctors to hospital leaders, this "infodemic" weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of those in healthcare.

"We see people coming in actually angry when they get diagnosed with COVID because they say COVID, isn't real, you're making it up, you're you're doing this only for profit," said CEO of Scripps Hospital, Chris Van Gorder.

"I've heard some people use the word that we've, in some ways, been villainized, I wouldn't say that. I would say that we've been forgotten," said Dr. Agrawal.

Even with the surgeon general declaring misinformation a significant public health challenge, the pushback from patients continues with no clear solutions of how to drown out the false information regarding COVID-19, leaving healthcare workers to deal with this problem at the patients' bedsides.

"It would be very easy as a provider with our morale and fatigue to kind of snap back and that is the last thing we need to do," said Dr. Leonard.

"You see them every day and you take care of them everyday and they become part of your family and it's hard to kind of hold a grudge in a sense," said Dr. Agrawal.

"I'm still going to take care of you and I'm still going to hope that you do get better," she said.

As year three of the pandemic has begun, these doctors want us to know that they will continue the fight for our lives, against all odds, just like they have done since day one.

"It's really seen patients hoping for that improvement, really hoping for those stories, where we made a difference. That is really what gets us to work every day," said Dr. Agrawal.