Read the “viewpoints” section of the latest Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal and you can find a short study article about the quality of medical information – specifically on melanoma – that is currently available on youtube.com.
Researchers for the study analyzed 100 relevant videos about melanoma to determine their origin, the nature of their production and the quality of their content.
Why is this information relevant? Because right now, prospective patients of any physician are researching their condition or procedure of interest online. One study cited found that “39 percent of patients with melanoma used the Internet to research their disease.” If doctors know how their patients behave online, they could possibly adjust their care practices and communication tools.
In this study, the majority of the relevant videos about melanoma were uploaded by reputable sources such as “medical professionals, institutions, news broadcasters, government or non-profit organizations.” Other videos however, offered information that was misleading and possibly false. “Two clips” they write, were “showing patients testifying cure of melanoma from alternative therapies with no scientific basis.”
Does this imply that video hosting sites like youtube should be censored or regulated when providing medical information? With so many excellent online resources offering accurate 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 the study titled “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.