The internet and social media serve as a valuable source of information and as a result it has become an integral part of our daily lives. There is an abundance of health-related information online which not only allows for greater accessibility to essential health information but also increase our engagement and awareness on health and wellbeing. Use of such information has led to many of us searching for diagnoses and clinical care on the internet, also known as a phenomenon, called ‘Dr Google’.

Although searching of online information has its benefits, it also comes with risks, and it is important for patients and health practitioners to be aware of such risks. A recently published paper reviewed 27 videos from healthcare sources and 22 videos from non-healthcare sources on vitiligo on YouTube.1 The paper found healthcare resources had significantly greater accuracy compared to non-healthcare videos but unfortunately had much less views. Another study also analysed the topmost popular 100 videos on YouTube regarding vitiligo.2 Results showed that of all videos, only 8% featured a board-certified dermatologist and many videos (78%) did not mention evaluation of treatment by a health care professional.

These studies remind us that it is important to be cautious when seeking health related information online and to seek professional advice when in doubt.

References:

  1. Read C, Wu KK, Young PM, Armstrong AW. Vitiligo Health Education: A Study of Accuracy and Engagement of Online Educational Materials. J Drugs Dermatol. 2021;20:623-9.
  2. Carrington AE, Kitts S, Kleinwaks E, Luu J, Nguyen M, Park JH. Vitiligo on YouTube: A cross-sectional analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2021.

Dr Jennifer Nguyen – Secretary of the VAA