Kate Johnson

November 13, 2014

ATLANTA — Popular YouTube videos, the bane of many parents' existence, are now officially considered a poor source of asthma information, according to research here at American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) 2014.

The problem is, the best quality asthma videos don't make it to the average teen's most-watched list, said lead researcher Alexei Gonzalez-Estrada, MD, from the Center for Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, who presented the research.

And the most popular videos are produced by alternative healthcare providers and promote unproven treatments, such as live-fish ingestion, marijuana, salt inhalers, and diets, he told Medscape Medical News.

For accurate information, "find videos on asthma control on the ACAAI YouTube channel," an society press release advises.

In their study, Dr Gonzalez-Estrada and his team assessed the quality of information provided by the most watched videos.

For 4 days in June, the investigators searched YouTube for English asthma videos running less than 20 minutes. Five young physicians then independently reviewed the 200 most-watched videos.

The reviewers analyzed each video for characteristics, source, and content, and scored each on a 30-point scale, reflecting adherence to current asthma guidelines from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

They subtracted points for misleading information that actually placed patients at risk, and added points for accurate information about asthma.

The median number of views per video was 18,074, "which is huge," said Dr Gonzalez-Estrada. The median duration was 172 seconds.

Among the most watched videos, those posted by asthma healthcare providers scored the highest, although even they were lacking.

Table. Most Watched Video Scores

Video Source Percent Mean Score
Asthma healthcare provider 12 9.90
Professional society or the media 29 5.44
Pharmaceutical company 5 3.98
Patient 20 2.28
Alternative healthcare provider 34 0.27


The best video was from the Mayo Clinic, but it was not included in the analysis because it was not on the most-watched list. "It would have scored a 25 out of 30," Dr Gonzalez-Estrada reported.

After his presentation, he was questioned about why that video did not make the list. "We have to become more attractive to people, I think," he answered.

"Healthcare providers should aim to produce more appealing videos for teenagers," he said during an interview with Medscape Medical News. "A proposed solution would be to produce a video depicting a famous sports figure or pop star, ideally with asthma, providing accurate information about asthma on YouTube."

But becoming more attractive to teens means stepping away from videos altogether, said John Bennett MD, from Miami, who is editor-in-chief of Internetmedicine.com, a site designed to educate doctors and patients about how the Internet can help them get and share information.

"Creating videos is old school," Dr Bennett told Medscape Medical News. "Teens aren't learning" with videos anymore. "I think you need to use the best tools available."

His prescription? Google Hangouts.

"Hangouts are the best way to reach teens. They can watch live and interact with doctors and healthcare people, as well as fellow asthmatics, in support groups," he said.

American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) 2014: Abstract 17. Presented November 8, 2014.


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