Marketing specialists have been recommending doctors get on YouTube for years now,   Today, users can “meet” their doctors, watch medical procedures, and get many of their healthcare questions answered.

As more medical information crowds into YouTube, physicians need to find ways to stand out on this platform. The best way to do this? Do what physicians have always done to make their mark: deliver at the highest level of quality possible.

After Google, YouTube is the second-largest search engine on the internet, a place where people increasingly seek out medical information.  YouTube is primarily an entertainment medium, however, and as a result medical professionals need to be careful not to get pulled into the click-bait mentality that prevails there.

In addition to content produced by healthcare providers, there is also medical information from a wide variety of other sources, including patients, alternative medicine providers, media, and parents.

Sometimes this information is less than accurate. A study published in February 2020 of the 300 most-viewed influenza videos on YouTube concluded that those produced by patients and alternative medicine providers were often misleading. Those produced by physicians weren’t always of the highest quality, either.

“Although videos by healthcare providers were a better source of information, videos on seasonal influenza were shown to be poor sources of valid healthcare information,” the authors write.

Another new study, on YouTube videos about deep brain stimulation, came to a similar conclusion. Using a five-point scale to rate reliability, the authors gave only 25 percent of the 42 videos a score higher than a three (and that scoring didn’t take into account who authored the video).

These two studies are not unique in their findings that the general quality of health information videos on YouTube is low, and yes – these findings are discouraging. But the authors of all the studies mentioned gave the same rallying cry: More healthcare professionals need to produce high-quality videos on YouTube.

Fortunately, there is a rubric (more than one, actually) to help them do that: the very tools used by the researchers mentioned when evaluating YouTube videos. Two of those are the DISCERN and the modified EQIP instruments.

The DISCERN Instrument

DISCERN uses a five-point rating system, 1 being low quality (serious or extensive shortcomings) and 5 being high quality (minimal shortcomings). There are 16 questions covering three general areas: reliability, information quality, and overall rating.

The modified EQIP Instrument

The modified EQIP is more in depth as to the elements that make a video high- or low-quality. It contains binary variables for a total of 26 points across three domains: content, author identification, and presentation. A good representation of this instrument can be found in this paper.

Both tools were originally designed to evaluate written health information, and researchers modified them for video. Until someone develops and validates a tool especially for video, the elements listed in these offer a good starting point. And according to a consensus among those evaluating the videos currently available, the need is great and the time to start is now.

YouTube currently has more than 2 billion users. There’s an opportunity for you to be in the vanguard and start creating the high-quality medical videos viewers are seeking. Your patients will notice.