In the viewpoints area of The latest issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery includes a short study article about the quality of medical information available on youtube.com.
Authors of the study analyzed 100 youtube videos about melanoma to determine their origin, the nature of their production and the quality of their content. Why would anyone bother studying this? Because right now, prospective patients of any physician are researching their condition or procedure of interest online. “39 percent of patients with melanoma used the Internet to research their disease,” according to one study authored by Sabel et al.
It could be useful for physicians to know what information is available online so they can possibly adjust their care practices and communication tools.
What they found
The majority of the “relevant” videos available via youtube were uploaded by reputable sources such as “medical professionals, institutions, news broadcasters, government or non-profit organizations.”
Some videos however, offered information that was misleading and possibly false. “Our study found two clips showing patients testifying cure of melanoma from alternative therapies with no scientific basis,” write the authors.
Does this imply that video hosting sites like youtube should be censored or regulated when providing medical information? With so many institutions offering accurate medical information, it’s unlikely that anyone would argue such a position. A more convincing argument would be for more open access to authoritative sources.
Read more about this study: “The Availability and Content Analysis of Melanoma Information on Youtube.” in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.