4 Nov 2022 – If health information on popular social media platforms like TikTok is misleading, what good is it?
According to TikTok, most of the popular videos about irritable bowel syndrome using the hashtag #IBS are posted by influencers or the general public, not by medical professionals or health agencies. Research presented in American College of Gastroenterology 2022 Annual Scientific Session in Charlotte, North Carolina. While influencer posts are shared more frequently, content from medical professionals has a higher view.
“These findings support healthcare organizations and professionals in building partnerships with influencers to increase the sharing of health information and factual education,” Faraz Jaffrey of the Dell School of Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin said at the conference. dissemination of content.”
He noted that posts with the hashtag #IBS have attracted 1.6 billion views, many of them aimed at helping people cope with IBS.
“With the advent of COVID-19, social media platforms like TikTok have become an important channel for patients to share their IBS experiences because they are reluctant to visit a doctor,” Jafri said. “While IBS is often an embarrassing topic for patients, TikTok has played an important role in normalizing IBS by providing an online support community where patients can share their stories.”
Jafri and his team analyzed the accuracy and educational content of the top 100 videos appearing on TikTok that met the inclusion criteria of their study under the hashtag #IBS. They found that nearly half of the videos (42 in total) were posted by influencers, while 10 videos were shared by medical professionals and another 6 by medical institutions. The rest of the videos are shared by the public.
Videos posted by influencers have an average of 16,382 shares, compared to 10,869 by medical professionals. But videos from medical professionals (3,661,000) outnumbered videos posted by influencers (2,926,476).
Only 30% of videos were educational, and less than half (47%) of them were real. One-fifth (21%) of videos posted by influencers are not based on gold-standard peer-reviewed research.
“These findings are not surprising because there is a lot of misinformation about health on TikTok,” said Zachary Rubin, MD, a pediatric allergist and immunologist at Oak Brook Allergists in Illinois. “This is especially true when health topics are not well understood even within the medical community.”
Rubin said it’s important for people to be aware of online trends that can influence medical decision-making so that potential misinformation can be addressed. (Rubin was not involved in the study, but he is an active Douyin users Frequent educational videos on vaccines, respiratory diseases and allergies. )
“There are a lot of content creators spreading misinformation to encourage them to visit their personal website to sign up for a course or buy a product, which may not necessarily prove helpful,” he explained.
He said people should search for the credentials of TikTok creators they follow for health-related information. Things to consider include whether the creator has a professional degree, what the creator’s personal website offers, and whether the creator is trying to sell a product or service.
“While TikTok may have valuable information about IBS and its treatment, it’s important to be aware of misinformation and consult your doctor when deciding to start a new diet or medication,” Jafri said. “Patients can use TikTok to find helpful ‘tips and tricks’ from licensed medical professionals for lifestyle improvements and symptom relief.”
The researchers found that nearly all non-educational videos (97 percent) were posted by non-medical professionals. The majority of posts were categorized as lifestyle (43%) or tips and tricks (40%), with more than a third (35%) categorized as humor and 7% as marketing.
“Users are most interested in posts discussing lifestyle changes that can relieve IBS symptoms, such as massage, diet, positioning and clothing,” Jafri said. “This DIY approach to IBS has been trending on TikTok with posts about diet, lifestyle, medication and product ads.”
Rubin said TikTok’s popularity as a platform means it’s important for health professionals to join and post accurate health information — especially on trending topics like skin care and weight loss.
“The vast majority of adults search for health information online, and many adults want to see a doctor on social media,” Rubin said. “It can be a good source of up-to-date information for people. For clinicians, it can provide an opportunity to connect with patients and the media.”