YouTube videos on allergic rhinitis are often misleading, lack useful information

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According to a study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

However, the online platform could be a reliable resource for patient education when content meets specific criteria, Celine Lund-Nielsenot RemvigBSc, research assistant at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, and his colleagues wrote in the study.

Data are from Remvig CL, et al. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2022; doi:10.1016/j.anai.2022.06.031.

Patients are increasingly interested in managing their own symptoms, and are turning to YouTube for information, researchers say. Yet anyone can post videos to the platform without any peer reviews, while an algorithm prioritizes videos based on engagement, increasing the potential for spreading misinformation.

Between June and August 2021, researchers viewed 230 videos, 86 of which met the inclusion criteria. These videos had a total of 201,457,429 views (median, 132,104) and a median of 2,048 likes, 93 dislikes, and 181 comments. They also had a median duration of 284 seconds.

The researchers categorized the videos by whether they were uploaded by a specialist, doctor, or health care provider (17.5%); a non-medical provider (17.4%); hosts of TV shows or YouTube channels (39.5%); association (9.3%); businesses (9.3%); or universities or government institutions (7%).

Videos uploaded by universities or hospitals had the highest median views at 973,695, although they only accounted for 6.5% of total views, with corporate videos being the most viewed source at 59 .9% of views, followed by TV shows and YouTube channels at 23.4% of all views.

Additionally, videos made by specialists, healthcare providers, and non-physician healthcare providers had lower median views than the overall median.

Additionally, videos uploaded by TV shows and YouTube channels received 66.9% of all likes, 66.8% of all dislikes, and 54% of all comments. Universities and hospitals only had 2% likes and 2.2% comments as well as 12.5% ​​dislikes.

The researchers also rated 37 (43%) videos as helpful, meaning they conveyed scientifically correct information; 31 (36%) as misleading or conveying at least one scientifically unproven detail; and 18 (21%) as neither helpful nor misleading, meaning they did not provide useful information about epidemiology, symptoms, or diagnoses.

Videos classified as helpful had a numerically higher median number of views (145,664 vs. 112,327) but fewer median likes (1,356 vs. 2,197) compared to misleading videos.

Besides being the most common source of videos, TV shows and YouTube channels also accounted for 48% of misleading videos, of which only 32% were considered helpful. Overall, 80% of videos uploaded by sources who were not healthcare providers were misleading.

Specialists, physicians, non-physician healthcare providers, and hospitals accounted for 9.7% of misleading videos, however. All of the videos posted by the associations were found to be helpful, the researchers found.

Calling their study the first to assess YouTube as a source of allergic rhinitis information, the researchers concluded that misleading videos are as popular as helpful videos, indicating that viewers may not be able to make the distinction between scientifically based information and misinformation.

The researchers suggested that YouTube could increase its usefulness by initiating a peer review or verification process conducted by medical professionals for videos with health-related content. Additionally, the researchers suggested that videos could include a tag indicating whether a health care provider is the source of the video.

Shirley K. Rosa