Healthcare information: the battle to appear credible

I was reminded last weekend of just how easy it is to be misled by information and so-called ‘news’.

I’d been mulling over insect repellent options for my daughter, who is studying abroad and suffering from bites. An article in my newsfeed pops up about cheap Amazon products that actually work, and introduces me to some colourful bracelets that repel creepy crawlies in an all-natural way. They sound perfect – she’ll love the look of them, and I’m relieved she won’t need to use chemicals on her skin. The news article looks plausible, and states:

THESE BRACELETS WILL KEEP PESKY MOSQUITOES AWAY

These brightly-colored bracelets are the perfect solution for those creepy crawlers everyone loathes. Leave the questionable chemical sprays and expensive electronic devices behind and slip on one of these bands, permeated with a blend of all-natural ingredients including lemongrass, citronella, and essential oils to boost your repellent powers. The bracelets are non-toxic and DEET free, and designed in a way so that each will comfortably fit anyone from a baby to an adult. A single band protects you for up to an unbeatable 420 hours.

Like 91% of online shoppers, I check the reviews for reassurance and discover reams of positive feedback from people who used to suffer and are now blissfully bite-free. Obviously, I place an order.

Then I get sceptical. A Google search for ‘mosquito repellent bands’ gives me five pages selling how great they are. I switch to ‘mosquito repellent bands review’ and keep going – eventually the Irish Health website tells me that “some deterrence may be provided to the wrist area but it will have absolutely no deterrence effect in relation to other exposed areas of skin”. This makes sense to me, and I realise that I’ve been swayed by unreliable sources. I cancel my order.

Now, I’m not against the bracelets – plenty of people clearly believe they do the job – but I would have saved a lot of time and effort if I could have found a reliable source with clear product information upfront. If people can only find the information they need in your customer reviews then their perception of your authenticity could suffer.

With information coming from all sides, it falls to the consumer to judge whether the source is trustworthy – a task even the most media-savvy of us can get wrong.