The first thing many people do when they have a health question is connect, but when it comes to COVID-19 and vaccines, the answers they find may do more harm than good.
But amid the avalanche of misinformation, YouTube is now stepping up to expose more credible health information.
The digital video platform is partnering with Mass General Brigham to flag medical information from authoritative health sources, such as healthcare system physicians, researchers, and healthcare experts.
The Google-owned company said it will highlight videos from high-quality sources when people search for specific health topics. YouTube will also add new “health source information panels” to the videos to help viewers identify who they can trust.
“The truth of the matter is that people are looking for health information, and while we have to do a good job of eliminating bad information, we also have to do a better job of providing good information,” Garth Graham, MD, Principal and Boss global public health and healthcare alliances on YouTube, told Fierce Healthcare.
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Simply removing misinformation about health online without replacing it with credible information “creates a vacuum,” Graham said. And many patients won’t change their behaviors after reading a billboard or flyer, he said, referring to tools often used in public health campaigns.
YouTube’s goal is to provide health information that is accessible, engaging, and understandable, and perhaps more likely to prompt people to act. “We are investing to grow our platform’s role as an effective, engaging, and trusted tool for public health communication through principles, partnerships, and product development,” Graham wrote in a blog post.
Before moving to Google and YouTube, Graham served as a cardiologist at Mass General Brigham, chief community health officer for CVS, and deputy assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services.
YouTube, which has more than 2 billion monthly active users, has the potential to be a “transformative tool” for public health, he said.
The company plans to highlight videos from health sources recommended by the National Academy of Medicine.
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Graham said YouTube is looking to partner with health systems and hospitals to increase credible health information online. The company has already partnered with leading healthcare providers, including the Cleveland Clinic, Mass General Brigham, Mayo Clinic, Stanford Medicine, and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Mass General Brigham, along with other healthcare and research institutions, will help create evidence-based videos to share medical information on a variety of health and science topics, such as mRNA research, mental health, and heart health.
The goal is to produce several videos per week for the platform to make it easier for people to find authoritative information they can trust.
“By working together with a global digital platform like YouTube, we will expand the reach of our experts and greatly expand access to trusted health information not just for those in our communities, but for everyone around the world,” he said. Ravi Thadhani, MD, Academic Director of Mass General Brigham.
In an increasingly digital world, the next phase in healthcare communication is video, where healthcare professionals can connect with patients and answer their questions in a visual and personal way, ”said Graham.
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy recently said that social media companies have fueled false narratives about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines.
“There have been positive steps on the part of these technology companies. But what I have also told you publicly and privately is that it is not enough, “Murthy said, as reported by CNBC.