Background: Pediatricians present immunization recommendations in a changing and equivocal information environment. Specifically, the consumer model of healthcare, in which patients take an active part in information seeking and treatment decisions, continues to rise, while information technology and media characteristics have increased access to information and misinformation about vaccines. The role of media-personality physicians as sources of information can potentially confuse parents looking for information to make immunization decisions for their children.
Objectives: This study investigated how parents perceive media-personality physicians whom they may have encountered through information seeking or scanning and to compare parents’ perceptions of these media-endorsed physicians with their perceptions of their own pediatrician.
Methods: The study used a cross-sectional, within-subjects experimental design. Following a well-child appointment with their pediatrician, 24 parents of children aged six and younger, completed an online instrument. Participants were presented with a media-personality physician brief biography and completed a scale of physician credibility, then an immunization-related message followed by a scale of message persuasiveness.
Results: Parents ranked personal pediatrician highest on the credibility scale, significantly higher than Dr. Bob Sears, t(15)=3.471, p=.003 and than Dr. Marty Myers, t(22)=6.537, p=.000. However, in comparison with Dr. Mehmet Oz, though parents rated their own pediatrician as more credible, it was not statistically significant. Message persuasiveness correlated with perceived credibility for the messages from Dr. Sears, r(15)=.672, p=.003, and from Dr. Oz, r(7)=.797, p=.010.
Conclusions: As pediatricians discuss immunization recommendations with parents, they should be aware of competing messages in the media so that they can address potential misinformation that parents may encounter. Results here show that while Dr. Sears and Dr. Myers may be perceived as less credible sources, Dr. Oz’s credibility can attract parents’ attention to immunization messages.