Below are the citation, abstract and selected extracts of a new paper in Health Informatics Journal, highly relevant to the the HIFA working group on Health Information for Citizens, Parents and Children:

Unfortunately the full text is restricted-access.

CITATION: Healthcare information on YouTube: A systematic review

Kapil Chalil Madathil, A Joy Rivera-Rodriguez, Joel S Greenstein and Anand K Gramopadhye Clemson University, USA

Health Informatics Journal 2015, Vol. 21(3) 173 –194


This article reviews the peer-reviewed literature addressing the healthcare information available on YouTube. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were determined, and the online databases PubMed and Web of Knowledge were searched using the search phrases: (1) YouTube* AND Health* and (2) YouTube* AND Healthcare*. In all, 18 articles were reviewed, with the results suggesting that (1) YouTube is increasingly being used as a platform for disseminating health information; (2) content and frame analysis were the primary techniques employed by researchers to analyze the characteristics of this information; (3) YouTube contains misleading information, primarily anecdotal, that contradicts the reference standards and the probability of a lay user finding such content is relatively high; (4) the retrieval of relevant videos is dependent on the search term used; and (5) videos from government organizations and professional associations contained trustworthy and high-quality information. YouTube is used as a medium for promoting unscientific therapies and drugs that are yet to be approved by the appropriate agencies and has the potential to change the beliefs of patients concerning controversial topics such as vaccinations. This review recognizes the need to design interventions to enable consumers to critically assimilate the information posted on YouTube with more authoritative information sources to make effective healthcare decisions.


Studies focusing a health issue. The five studies focusing on specific healthcare concerns analyzed videos on vaccinations (n = 3), organ donation (n = 1), and obesity (n = 1). Keelan et al.14 found that 32 percent of the videos they analyzed were not supportive of immunization and that these videos received a higher mean star rating and more views than the supportive ones.

In an effort to make informed healthcare decisions, patients are increasingly turning to the Internet to better understand their medical conditions and treatments. As seen in this review, YouTube hosts videos providing information on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of various health conditions. The majority of the videos reviewed in the articles cited were narrative experi-ences posted by individual users. This review of 18 articles provides six insights on the character-istics of health-related information available on YouTube: (1) YouTube hosts health care–related communication and health consumers are viewing this information; (2) public service announce-ments from organizations, documentaries, and TV shows, and user-generated anecdotal content in which users discuss their perspectives and their experiences were the most commonly found sources; (3) misleading information is found on YouTube, and the probability of healthcare con-sumers encountering such material during the information-seeking process is high; (4) reliable postings from government/professional organizations are available; (5) overall, there was little difference between the frequency of viewings between misleading and accurate posts; and (6) there has been little research on developing interventions to increase the ease with which users can find useful healthcare information on YouTube.

Three major safety concerns were identified when consumers use information obtained from YouTube for health care decision-making: (1) YouTube is used as a medium for promoting unsci-entific therapies that are yet to be approved by the appropriate agency,10 (2) YouTube contains information contradicting reference standards/guidelines, and (3) YouTube has the potential to change the beliefs of patients about controversial topics such as vaccinations.

As seen from this review, YouTube holds a vast amount of data pertaining to health care. Some of this information is mis-leading or incorrect. With the results of recent surveys suggesting that YouTube is ranked as the third most accessed website worldwide, the probability of disseminating such misleading informa-tion to healthcare consumers is high and can have catastrophic implications.

Best wishes, Neil

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