Are YouTube videos a suitable place for medical information?
The way medical information is now being found by the younger generations has changed. The days of reading information via literature has passed and now teens are turning to more modern alternatives. Anyone who has searched the internet for symptoms of a current health query will know that it is a daunting and often misleading task. Searching for the most minor of symptoms such as a runny nose often returns results that are highly exaggerated. A recent study has investigated the quality of this information, particularly YouTube videos and the quality in these videos in providing medical advice.
The research was undertaken at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. In the study, Dr Gonzalez-Estrada and the team used a quality scoring method which they applied to the information contained within the most popular videos relating to Asthma. The team searched YouTube for asthma videos that had a length of fewer than 20 minutes. These videos were then narrowed down to the 200 most viewed videos, which were then reviewed by five young physicians.
Every video was analysed with certain categories such as characteristics, source and content. Each of these categories was then scored on a 30-point scale, which correlated with the guidelines used by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The point systems worked on a plus and subtract system in which misleading information had points subtracted and accurate information had points added.
The results found that many of the videos with the highest view count had inaccurate information relating to asthma, especially symptom advice. Healthcare videos were rated the highest out of the all the videos, presenting the most accurate information and fairing much higher than other video sources such as pharmaceutical companies.
There is an underlying issue within the context of these health videos that was presented by the lead researcher Alexei Gonzalex-Estrada, MD. “The most popular videos are produced by alternative healthcare providers and promote unproven treatments, such as live-fish ingestions, marijuana, salt inhalers, and diets”. The healthcare providers for most diseases fall behind in the use of videos, as an example, because they are already a stable provider in the context of their disease field and also expect people to approach them for information.
To combat the issue of YouTube videos that don’t present the most sound asthma advice there has been suggestions that advise on different approaches for the future of healthcare within the modern landscape.
Dr Gonzalez-Estrada commented with the following-
“Healthcare providers should aim to produce more appealing videos for teenagers; A proposed solution would be to produce a video depicting a famous sports figure or pop star, ideally with asthma, providing accurate information about asthma on YouTube”.
Dr John Bennett, MD, from Miami and editor-in-chief of the internet medicine website offered a different solution to the problem-
“Creating videos is old school. Teens aren’t learning with videos anymore, I think you need to use the best tools available”.
“Google Hangouts are the best way to reach teens. They can watch live and interact with doctors and healthcare people, as well as fellow asthmatics, in support groups.”
 “YouTube a ‘Poor Source’ of Asthma Info for Teens”, Kate Johnson, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/834876
 “Asthma videos on YouTube rated poor source of patient education”, http://www.healio.com/allergy-immunology/asthma-lower-airway-diseases/news/online/%7Ba38e7e0e-5cba-435e-9263-4e61639552c2%7D/asthma-videos-on-youtube-rated-poor-source-of-patient-education
 “Asthma Management Can Be Difficult”, Kathleen Lees, http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/18709/20141110/asthma-management-can-be-difficult.htm
For More Information
Gonzalez-Estrada A. Abstract 17. Presented at: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting; Nov. 6-10, 2014; Atlanta.