Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, on misinformation, rebuilding patient trust and good health care marketing [Podcast]


AMA Update covers a range of health care topics affecting the lives of physicians, residents, medical students and patients. From private practice and health system leaders to scientists and public health officials, hear from the experts in medicine on COVID-19, medical education, advocacy issues, burnout, vaccines and more.

AMA Update

Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, on misinformation, rebuilding patient trust and good healthcare marketing

Aug 22, 2023

AMA Update welcomes back former senior vice president and chief medical officer at Salesforce, Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA. In this episode, Dr. Nayyar discusses how health care leaders can use new technologies, like AI, and existing social media platforms to reach new patients, rebuild trust in the community, stop the spread of medical misinformation and combat the anti-science movement. AMA Chief Experience Officer Todd Unger hosts.


  • Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, former chief medical officer and senior vice president, Salesforce

AMA Recovery Plan for America’s Physicians

After fighting for physicians during the pandemic, the AMA is taking on the next extraordinary challenge: Renewing the nation’s commitment to physicians.

Unger: Hello and welcome to the AMA Update video and podcast. Today, we're talking about misinformation and how technology and other solutions can help physicians address it. Here with me today in our Chicago studio is Dr. Geeta Nayyar, a nationally recognized leader in health care information technology and author of the upcoming book Dead Wrong: Diagnosing and Treating health care's Misinformation Illness, which is going to be out this fall.

I'm Todd Unger, AMA's chief experience officer in Chicago. Dr. Nayyar, welcome. I'll just say, you like to go by Dr. G. So we'll switch from here.

Dr. Nayyar: Well, I think you're the only one who can actually say my name, Todd. So thank you for that. Thank you for having me.

Unger: So since we last talked, you have been doing a lot of research and work looking at this—the threat of misinformation. We've had a lot of folks on the AMA Update talking about this and just how difficult this makes life for doctors.

I am curious just to start things off—what have you found in your research? And what are you going to be talking about in your book?

Dr. Nayyar: Well, thank you for asking again. Look, the reality is misinformation has been around forever. I know we all think of it as a pandemic-related issue. And it very much got weaponized and politicized during COVID. But the reality is it's been around forever, whether you're talking about diabetes, HIV/AIDS, weight loss. And so, I essentially go through stories in the book, and we talk about the ever-presence of misinformation and how to combat it.

Unger: But I don't remember—I mean, you said it's been weaponized and that it existed before but not to this degree that we're seeing right now. What do you think accounts for that—just that magnification of it?

Dr. Nayyar: Well, I think a couple of things. One, we have tools that have now made it so easy to propagate really, really bad characters, whether it's social media, whether it's artificial intelligence, and whether we're talking about a captive audience that's stuck on some of these channels, right?

Often we have constituents that are only on those channels. And very rarely can you actually talk to a doctor, get access to a doctor. Have you tried to make a doctor's appointment anytime recently? It's like three to six months to talk to a doctor. So in the absence of that, in the absence of a true health care expert to follow, the noise has become louder for those anti-science folks.

Unger: And what impact are you seeing on physicians?

Dr. Nayyar: Well, it's certainly a contributor to burnout. It's certainly a contributor to the sentiments around science and the profession. And look, the reality is physicians are left to clean it up. They're left to educate people on prevention, vaccines, the importance of masks, all the things we saw through the pandemic but continue to see in other facets of health care, like diabetes, cancer and just basic primary care.

Unger: So we'll just add fighting misinformation onto the list of all the other things that physicians have to do—not quite enough.

Dr. Nayyar: It's hard. But the difference is if we can use some of these technologies and tools to empower the physician. So if you look at organizations like the Cleveland Clinic, which I actually discuss in the book, their head of marketing and communications actually highlights how he took human-centered stories, scaled them at the enterprise level, used social media, used marketing communications, and actually drove patient acquisition, retention and brand loyalty. But really using the voice of his own physicians and staff in a way that was accessible and relatable. And we just don't see that every day in health care.

Unger: So interesting just—we talk a lot about storytelling and marketing, of course, and such a role for that to play. When we think about communicating with Congress, for instance, what we hear time and time again is that those stories from physicians are just so important to tell. And it's great to hear it being played out in another arena there.

Dr. Nayyar: Look, marketing is all about people knowing, liking and trusting you. And one of the things physicians struggle with is all three of those, right? One, how do you get your presence out there? If you don't have a digital presence, you don't have a presence.

You have to be likeable and not speak in medicalese. You have to speak in plain, simple language and be reachable. Be approachable. And people have to trust you. This all goes back to being very personable. Very much people are looking for that trusted relationship when they're vulnerable.

And look, every doctor doesn't have to do this. But they do have to partner with their marketing people. They have to partner at the enterprise level. Because if physicians don't do this, no one else will lead this. No one else will combat misinformation. The physician is the natural leader here.

Unger: Now, you've had a high level view of the technology space related to health care. You're a former chief medical officer at Salesforce, very prominent speaker, talk a lot about AI. When you think about the tools now that physicians have to work with to combat misinformation, what is the role of technology both good and bad in doing that?

Dr. Nayyar: So just like a hammer, right? You can build stuff, or you can break stuff. And so we have to think about artificial intelligence in the same way. There is so much opportunity to do amazing things, get mass communication out there, anticipate questions, answer questions directly and in an equitable way, in a way that is racially sensitive.

If we implement AI in all the right ways, it can be a real tool to combat misinformation. But if we don't, then this can become a very dangerous weapon and can actually propagate misinformation.

Unger: How do we solve that?

Dr. Nayyar: Well, I think we have to work collectively. I think we have to watch AI. We have to understand it. There's still a lot that we don't understand.

So where it really goes from here is important for us as industry leaders to weigh in. I would hope that AMA is going to be part of the story here in terms of regulations and the ethical uses of AI. But it's very important that we have medical oversight and medical leadership because there really are a lot of ethical issues that we don't even understand yet. So finding that right balance, finding that right way to lead with physicians and not just throw technology at physicians, which is what we've done to-date, particularly with the EHRs.

Unger: Absolutely. And not a great outcome on that front. It's taken a long time to work toward a better solution. I'm curious, in your book writing, what has surprised you about the topic that you've been writing about?

Dr. Nayyar: You know, what's not surprising and surprising all at the same time is the humanity—the connection of humanity. What moves people, what motivates people, what captivates people goes back to that know, like, trust. When a consumer finds someone they know, like, and trust, it doesn't matter if it's their hairdresser, it doesn't matter if it's their mechanic, doesn't matter if it's Dr. John Doe, they are loyal forever.

And so how do we, as health care, do that? How do we ensure that people know, like, and trust their physicians at mass scale and make science relatable and cool again? Because somehow science got a bad rap. And we have to understand that we have to simply communicate and compel people.

Unger: Any of the stories that you're telling in there that kind of gets to a great example of how we can do that?

Dr. Nayyar: Oh my goodness. There's are so many. You'll have to bring me back for another episode. But, again, we really share stories—we share stories from Dr. Peter Hotez, Megan Ranney, Adrienne Boissy, myself. And we find that the journeys are all very similar.

We have stories from Carladenise Edwards. I mean, we've really brought in all aspects from different geographies, different racial biases and just different spectrums of health care leadership, from media doctors to Dr. Boissy, who led patient experience at Cleveland Clinic. And so it's just really interesting to see it all leads back to the same thing, which is the humanity of medicine and how technology can either empower that or hold it back.

Unger: That's so interesting. Dr. Hotez's, of course, been a frequent visitor on the AMA Update. And we've heard many of his stories about what he's gone through, in terms of anti-science aggression. You both have books coming out right around the same time. So that's—

Dr. Nayyar: We do. But I don't have the same bow tie.

He's got like really cool bow ties. That's what—

Unger: We did provide that for him, one of his bow ties at least. I'm curious. I want to go back to just something you mentioned before, too, about this word "marketing" and when it comes to physicians. Probably not kind of front of mind. I think—you know, you think maybe there is a marketing problem to be solved here with physicians. How does that play out?

Dr. Nayyar: Well, first of all, to physicians, marketing is a bad word, and it shouldn't be, right? Marketing is how we combat misinformation. I say it's patient education, not marketing. But it's all connected, right?

And prior to the pandemic, marketing was really, "Hey, we're on the corner of Seventh and Fifth. We're open 24/7. We've got virtual services." But now marketing is patient education. And it really is building patient acquisition, retention and brand loyalty.

And if you're not doing it, believe me, the retailer down the street is. The doctor down the street is, or the chiropractor or the PA. Because in the absence of physicians—we are in a shortage issue right now. We have a burnout issue.

In the absence of physician leadership in this space, there's other noise. There's so much other noise from so many other people. And they're taking your patients and they're keeping them.

And that may not be the best thing for patient care. Because we know that outcomes are driven by informed, educated patients that see the same primary care doctor or specialist over time. And that's what drives health. That's what ultimately drives outcomes.

Unger: So really eager to read your book. Do you want to give one more shout out to it?

Dr. Nayyar: Thank you. The book is called Dead Wrong. It is not an Agatha Christie novel. It is about diagnosing misinformation and disinformation. And I hope every health care leader out there reads it, is inspired, and does something about it.

Unger: So inspiring to have you. And I can't wait to read your book. Thanks for dropping by the AMA studio. That's it for today's AMA Update. We'll be back with another segment soon. In the meantime, you can find all our videos and podcasts at Thanks for joining us today. Please take care.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed in this podcast are those of the participants and/or do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.