A Shot of Whiskey a Day Keeps the Doctor Away, and That’s No April Foolin’

From pigs causing anemia to a single insulin shot curing diabetes, InCrowd microsurvey highlights US clinicians’ reports of the medical myths told to them by patients;
the stranger side of patient care underscores the need for education and communication

BOSTON, MA March 31, 2017Medical misconceptions are rampant among the US patient population and they underscore the need for continued patient education, according to a new microsurvey from InCrowd, an award winning provider of real-time market intelligence to the life sciences and healthcare industries.

In celebration of April Fool’s Day, InCrowd asked 200 US physicians and nurses for the most unusual patient healthcare misinformation and anecdotes they’ve heard throughout their years of practice. All of the contributors to the microsurvey had a story of misguided care.

Of these clinicians:

  • 41% of the responses centered around recurring, common health and healthcare fallacies.
  • Another 23% of responses were related to old, or cultural, myths for treating or “curing” illness.  
  • 28% were a mix of random, and often hilarious, beliefs that were relayed to the clinicians.
  • A further 9% were connected to a lack of clarity surrounding the causes of illness.

While some responses may provide a chuckle, they highlight the longevity of old wives’ tales, and the need for continuous, fact-based healthcare education that rebuts them.

Click to Tweet: What keeps #physicians #nurses laughing? Persistent, wacky #medical myths – new InCrowd data @CrowdTalk http://bit.ly/2oDLOgI

  • Sex and pregnancy misconceptions were the single largest type of fallacy, comprising 10% of total responses—from the idea a patient cannot get pregnant while breastfeeding, to eating papaya causes miscarriages. Some clinicians heard from patients that having sex in a certain position will increase the chances of having a boy, or that experiencing heartburn during pregnancy indicates the child will be born with a full head of hair. One patient insisted to a physician that sleeping too much during the first trimester would cause the the baby to “stick,” resulting in the need for a C-section.
  • Approximately 9% of total responses dealt with vaccination myths. Patients state that vaccines cause the flu, autism, or are simply not to be trusted. “Every flu season there are always patients who refuse the flu shot, stating ‘the flu shot gave me the flu.’You can’t convince anyone that this is not possible!’ ” said an RN from New York.
  • “A shot of whiskey a day,” as the secret to a long life, was reported multiple times — and per a patient of a Minnesota cardiologist, it should be consumed at 4 pm.
  • “Starve a cold, feed a fever” and other common false remedies also appeared to thrive, with multiple respondents perpetuating the idea that cold weather makes a person sick, or, conversely, “I can’t have pneumonia because it isn’t cold outside.”
  • More concerning, numerous clinicians reported that patients swear by entirely incorrect healthcare practices. Patients fear that mammograms cause cancer, think that “if you put [them] to sleep with anesthesia, [they’ll] die,” and believe that the hospital would withhold quality care, knowing they are an organ donor, in order to procure organs.

“InCrowd’s data reveal a glaring gap in patient education regarding some of the country’s most prevalent health issues: vaccinations, pregnancy, diabetes, cancer and more,” noted Phil Moyer, InCrowd’s Senior Director of Crowd Operations. “Patients should not be judged for being misinformed, but the data provides those in health and wellness, an opportunity to improve communication. The onus is on both the healthcare community and the media to empower the public with the facts and guidance that best inform patient health behaviors. Though the most prevalent medical myths may always exist, conversations with practitioners may go a long way in helping patients manage their health and achieve optimal outcomes.”

InCrowd’s microsurvey responses were sourced in a two day period on Wednesday, March 22, 2017, with n=200 clinicians with an average age of 46 and average of 14 years in practice.