Mon. May 29th, 2023

As it attempts to combat health disinformation, YouTube is allowing certain healthcare professionals to apply for verification.

Starting Thursday, licensed healthcare providers such as doctors, nurses and mental health professionals can apply to make their channels eligible for YouTube’s health product features, which labels them as an authoritative source on a medical topic. It also will promote their videos at the top of someone’s search. 

YouTube is expanding upon a program it rolled out last year with educational institutions, public health departments, hospitals and government entities. Organizations such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and Mass Brigham General have labels on their YouTube videos that note they are accredited sources of health information.

Dr. Garth Graham, Global Head of Healthcare at YouTube, said that creating a similar verification label for healthcare professionals was a natural next step. 

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“The truth is the bulk of people who create health information, not just on YouTube but across the web, are individuals such as doctors, nurses and other professionals,” Graham said. “During COVID, we all saw a surge of healthcare professionals taking platforms like ours to try to communicate health information. Clinicians are not just interested in publishing in journals but reaching people.”

Graham said that individual providers with accounts in good standing must follow practices set by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, the National Academy of Medicine and the World Health Organization. The practices are centered on providing evidence-based information and being objective, transparent and inclusive. 

The move comes as YouTube and other popular social media sites have tried to counter medical disinformation that has ramped up during COVID. Results have been mixed. 

According to a May study in BMC Medical Education, less than one-third of health-related videos on YouTube are objective. A March study, from researchers at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine, found that 11% of its videos—18 million views— on COVID had information that contradicted the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’ve advanced a lot in the last year with our removal policies, particularly with misinformation about COVID vaccines, harmful substances and those kinds of things,” Graham said. 

YouTube’s parent company, Alphabet, was recently sued by Dr. Joseph Mercola, a Florida doctor, who alleges he was unjustly kicked off the platform for his anti-vaccine videos. YouTube also removed anti-vaccine advocate and comedian, Russell Brand for COVID misinformation. 

This story first appeared in Digital Health Business & Technology.

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