Last week, YouTube announced a new team that will push for more high-quality, credible medical content on its platform, including content aimed at laypeople as well as physicians.
The team will be led by Dr. Garth Graham, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health, in the position of director and global head of healthcare and public health partnerships. A cardiologist by training, Graham has also held high-level private sector positions at the Aetna Foundation and CVS Health.
"Our goal is to work on how we can get more evidence-based scientific information out in an engaging and culturally appropriate way that motivates people to make change in health and healthcare," Graham told MobiHealthNews. "How do we work to build out health on YouTube as an informational and motivational source for health and public health?"
WHAT'S THE IMPACT?
The tech giant announced partnerships off the bat with the American Public Health Association, Cleveland Clinic, The Forum at the Harvard School of Public Health, Mayo Clinic, Osmosis, Psych Hub and the National Academy of Medicine, as well as content creators like Dr. Natalie Crawford, Dr. Ali Mattu and Dr. Cedric “Jamie” Rutland.
The nature of the partnerships differs for each one, Graham said, with YouTube providing additional support to some and just providing a platform to others.
While the timing of the announcement will certainly draw attention to misinformation concerns around COVID-19 as well as the COVID-19 vaccines, Graham says the launch has been in the works for some time. The current crisis, however, underscores the need for high-quality, credible information on the platform. He told MobiHealthNews the company has other initiatives underway to remove misinformation, but those efforts will falter without good information to fill in.
"For a garden to grow, you remove the weeds and you plant the seeds," he said. "The removal of misinformation, which is evidenced by YouTube’s vaccine policies, that is part of the weed removal. The way we look at this is, once you remove the weeds and there’s a vacuum of information, how do you plug in that information so people are able to get what they need?"
YouTube's health content strategy revolves around three pillars, according to a release from the company: credible medical information, guided practices such as fitness and physical therapy, and emotional community support around difficult health issues.
The company plans to launch additional partnerships throughout the year, as well as a virtual event focused on public health next month.
While much of the information is geared toward patients, YouTube is also aware of the role it has to play in education and communication for healthcare professionals, a topic Graham expounded on in a recent YouTube blog post.
"Healthcare professionals are also a key part of the vision for health on YouTube," he wrote. "Building on the success of healthcare professionals on YouTube like Kati Morton, Doctor Mike (Dr. Mikhail Varshavski, DO) and Mama Doctor Jones, we have partnered with the Association for Healthcare Social Media to provide resources to healthcare professionals who use social media. Together, we will work to educate and empower new audiences with medical information on YouTube.”
THE LARGER TREND
YouTube has included medical content of various kinds for some time. MobiHealthNews interviewed YouTube medical personality Varshavski (Doctor Mike) in 2019 when he tackled some health tech topics on his channel.
However, like all major social media platforms, YouTube has recieved increased scrutiny with the proliferation of medical misinformation, which VuMedi CEO Roman Giverts called the number one ethical problem facing tech companies in a MobiHealthNews editorial this past summer.
ON THE RECORD
Graham encouraged any group with high-quality information to share to get active on YouTube.
"I don’t want groups to think of us as gatekeepers or a necessary ingredient to get involved on the platform," he said. "If organizations see an opportunity and a need, I would say go for it."