The assessment of TikTok as a source of quality health information on varicoceles
Alexandra R. Siegal, MD, Fernando A. Ferrer, MD, Neha R. Malhotra, MD.
Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.
BACKGROUND: Given the prevalence of varicoceles and the multiple treatment options, it is important that patients and families have access to accurate information regarding this condition. As many patients seek health information from social media, we sought to investigate the quality of varicocele information on TikTok, a platform with over 1 billion monthly active users—greater than 60% of which are 10-29 years old. This is the first study evaluating the quality of urologic information on this popular application.
METHODS: Using the key word "varicocele," we retrieved the top 225 videos listed on TikTok in May 2022. We included videos that were directly related to varicoceles and excluded videos that were not related to the subject, not directed to a patient audience, or non-English language. We extracted general video and engagement data. Video information was coded and analyzed for the completeness of different types of content (definition, symptoms, evaluation, management, and outcomes); each category was given points for content quantity. The quality of consumer health information was rated using the DISCERN instrument.
RESULTS: 36 videos met inclusion criteria; 17 were created by general users, 16 by healthcare professionals or systems (2 by urologists), and 3 by scientific communities. Non-healthcare professionals had more views (124,529 versus 8,499, p = 0.05) and more likes (9,138 versus 407, p = 0.07) (Table 1). The quality of consumer health information using the DISCERN instrument was "poor" from health care professional videos and "very poor" from non-health care professionals. However, the quality of information provided by healthcare professionals was statistically better than non-healthcare professionals (p<0.01, Table 2). We analyzed videos for the completeness of information on disease definition, symptoms, evaluation, management, and outcomes. No videos had all five attributes. Most video content focused on symptoms: 50% of videos for healthcare providers had some content, 18.8% had extensive content, and 55% of non-healthcare videos had some content. Hardly any providers discussed evaluation, management, or outcomes (12.5%, 25%, and 6.3%, respectively). Interestingly, non-healthcare professionals discussed management and outcomes more than healthcare professionals did (54% and 40%, respectively) (Table 3).
CONCLUSIONS: The overall quality of information on varicoceles provided by both healthcare professionals and non-healthcare professionals on TikTok is not acceptable and does not meet patient needs. It is imperative that urologists have a greater social media presence, create robust, accurate content, and partner with high-engagement accounts to help users connect with higher quality information. TikTok users should also be mindful that information on varicoceles may not be medically accurate and reach out to healthcare providers for medical advice.
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