Social media and the rise of user-generated content has certainly bridged a lot of information gaps but also raised questions around authenticity leading to issues highlighted elsewhere in this piece, especially around fake news driven political propaganda. The issues become somewhat more serious if it were to be in the field of health and medicine. At the basic level, patients consulting ‘Google’ as their first port of call for a general physician and then self-medicating based on internet content is an issue in itself. But what if medical practitioners themselves were relying on ‘Youtube videos’ to pick up surgical skills and bridge the gap in their training? This piece by Christina Farr suggests the existence of thousands of such tutorial like videos and also the practice of using them to learn skills. Whilst many of them are genuinely helping young practitioners pick up skills, several are dubious in quality, thereby raising the likelihood of sub-optimal healthcare that could risk patients’ lives.
“CNBC found tens of thousands of videos showing a wide variety of medical procedures on the Google-owned video platform, some of them hovering around a million views. People have livestreamed giving birth and broadcast their face-lifts. One video, which shows the removal of a dense, white cataract, has gone somewhat viral and now has more than 1.7 million views. Others seem to have found crossover appeal with nonmedical viewers, such as a video from the U.K.-based group Audiology Associates showing a weirdly satisfying removal of a giant glob of earwax.
Doctors are uploading these videos to market themselves or to help others in the field, and the amount is growing by leaps and bounds. Researchers in January found more than 20,000 videos related to prostate surgery alone, compared with just 500 videos in 2009.
The videos are a particular boon for doctors in training. When the University of Iowa surveyed its surgeons, including its fourth-year medical students and residents, it found that YouTube was the most-used video source for surgical preparation by far.
…. How can doctors tell which videos are valid and which contain bogus information?
For instance, one recent study found more than 68,000 videos associated with a common procedure known as a distal radius fracture immobilization. The researchers evaluated the content for their technical skill demonstrated and educational skill, and created a score. Only 16 of the videos even met basic criteria, including whether they were performed by a health-care professional or institution. Among those, the scores were mixed. In several cases, the credentials of the person performing the procedure could not be identified at all.
Even more concerning, studies are finding that the YouTube algorithm is highly ranking videos where the technique isn’t optimal. A group of researchers found that for a surgical technique called a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, about half the videos showed unsafe maneuvers.”

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