Ebola: Fact or Fiction?

Marti Powles COOThere is no mistaking it. Today’s Americans are on heightened alert regarding their health. They want immediate answers. The question is, where are individuals finding these answers and are they reliable? From the first confirmed case of Ebola hitting the United States to the mysterious HEV68 virus impacting countless children nationwide, the need for factual, accurate information is stronger than ever before. It is time we – as informed health benefit professionals – collectively take responsibility of this mounting issue and start guiding consumers toward valid information and away from the misinformation spreading faster than these diseases.

How did this happen?

Social media has become a trusted platform for up-to-the-minute news and information. From Facebook to Twitter, there has been a shift within the last decade towards increased public engagement with news stories. However, with immediate communication comes a perpetuating amount of shared half-truths and rumors, causing a virtual hysteria that 140 characters or less cannot sufficiently defuse.

According to a Harvard School of Public Health poll, a staggering 39% of Americans thought an Ebola outbreak would come to the United States, and 26% were concerned that they or a family member would contract the disease. Individuals were even going as far as to say the Ebola virus was one large conspiracy theory created by the United States government.  In an effort to combat this social media frenzy, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a question and answer session on Twitter to address American’s Ebola questions, comments and concerns.

Talk about a real-time media mess.

Armed and ready for the future

So what can we do to help clear up the confusion? As health benefit marketers, brokers and advisors, we must educate and arm our clients and their members with services that provide accurate and precise information. Are you offering valuable benefits such as Doctors Online and Nurse Hotline? Members can email medical professionals through the secure Doctors Online website and a physician will respond with answers and provide trusted articles for further reading. This prevents individuals from obtaining medical answers through the Media. In uncertain times, it is imperative we promote such benefits, giving consumers the power of knowledge and more importantly, peace of mind.

We must step up to the plate and educate consumers on all readily available healthcare options. Resources such as discount benefits and credible websites such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put control back in the hands of the consumers and help alleviate unnecessary concern.

–Marti Powles, COO

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