When Dr. Aakash Aggarwal searched “gallstones” on YouTube, the researcher found 228 relevant videos. Twenty percent came from health agencies; 70 percent came from independent sources; and 10 percent were medical advertisements.
Aggarwal, a 2nd-year resident in internal medicine at Upstate, watched the videos and labeled 121 as “useful,” containing accurate and beneficial information. He found 66 to be misleading. He excluded 41 that were not in English or shorter than 1 minute in length.
Many of the misleading videos discourage surgical treatment and instead encourage natural flush therapies such as ingesting olive oil, apple cider and other substances in large quantities, therapies that are not proven effective and may even be harmful. Even more worrisome: Per-day viewership was significantly higher for the misleading videos than for the useful videos.
Aggarwal presented his research at the American College of Gastroenterology Annual Scientific Meeting this fall. Considering that 50 million Americans seek health information online each month, Aggarwal believes health care agencies should seize the opportunity to develop accurate videos on a variety of medical topics – so people will be able to find correct information.
Listen to an interview with Dr. Aggarwal.