Some doctors say that medical students and residents are turning to YouTube to fill in gaps in their training. The video-sharing platform hosts tens of thousands of surgery-related videos, and the number keeps climbing every year.
People have livestreamed giving birth and broadcast their face-lifts. One video, which shows the removal of a dense, white cataract, has gone somewhat viral and now has more than 1.7 million views. Others seem to have found crossover appeal with nonmedical viewers, such as a video from the U.K.-based group Audiology Associates showing a weirdly satisfying removal of a giant glob of earwax. Doctors are uploading these videos to market themselves or to help others in the field, and the amount is growing by leaps and bounds. Researchers in January found more than 20,000 videos related to prostate surgery alone, compared with just 500 videos in 2009.
The videos are a particular boon for doctors in training. When the University of Iowa surveyed its surgeons, including its fourth-year medical students and residents, it found that YouTube was the most-used video source for surgical preparation by far. But residents and medical students are not the only ones tuning in. Experienced doctors, like Stanford Hospital’s vascular surgeon Dr. Oliver Aalami said he turned to YouTube recently ahead of a particularly difficult exposure. There’s one problem with this practice that will be familiar to anybody who’s searched YouTube for tips on more mundane tasks like household repairs. How can doctors tell which videos are valid and which contain bogus information?
“[O]ne recent study found more than 68,000 videos associated with a common procedure known as a distal radius fracture immobilization,” the report adds. “The researchers evaluated the content for their technical skill demonstrated and educational skill, and created a score. Only 16 of the videos even met basic criteria, including whether they were performed by a health-care professional or institution. Among those, the scores were mixed. In several cases, the credentials of the person performing the procedure could not be identified at all.”
Other studies are finding that YouTube’s algorithm is highly ranking videos where the technique isn’t optimal.