Infectious Disease

TikTok paperwork use the app to offer dependable medical data

January 29, 2021

5 min read

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Chiang and Dizon report that they are part of the TikTok Creator Fund.


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In August 2020, the social media giant TikTok reported more than 100 million active users from the US on its platform every month.

The app is known for short, catchy dance videos and challenges, some of which have resulted in FDA warnings. However, it also offers the ability to provide medical information to users.

“The time for every doctor to discount social media platforms is over.” Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, Professor of medicine at Brown University, told Healio Primary Care.

“I don’t think we should ignore it and I don’t think we should pretend it doesn’t make any difference because it is,” said Dizon. “It makes a big difference.”

Healio Primary Care spoke to Dizon and Austin Chiang, MD, MPH, Director of Bariatric Endoscopy at Jefferson Health and Founder and President of the Association for Healthcare Social Media to learn more about TikTok and the importance of healthcare professionals using the platform.

Doctors on TikTok

Dizon said he joined the platform out of curiosity about a year ago after seeing clips from the app on Twitter and the news.

When he started creating content, he posted videos of himself performing dances that were trending on TikTok, with medical information inside the video.

Although he enjoyed learning the dances, these posts were primarily intended to expose viewers to medical information.

“Now I don’t want to learn these dances anymore – it was kind of a passing infatuation – and now I really only use them to really have conversation [with users]. ”

Chiang had come into contact with TikTok in a similar way through other social media platforms and switched to the platform after using Twitter and Instagram.

When he started, Chiang said that there are few doctors who create content on the platform.

“I dipped my toes in the water and found that people were interested in what I had to say about health in a fun way, and I gave it back to all of my Instagram doctor friends who work in different fields and so it really is everything has been rolled out, ”he said.

Initially there were some problems with clinicians on TikTok posting videos mocking patients or being otherwise unprofessional.

Since then, Chiang says, doctors have learned to make content humorous without being unprofessional.

“I think many of us have struck a good balance of entertainment without compromising the integrity of our position as health professionals,” he said.

The Association for Healthcare Social Media, a not-for-profit professional society, works to help healthcare workers understand the “pitfalls” of using social media.

However, Chiang stressed that concerns about being unprofessional should not deter doctors from joining social media platforms, but rather let them know what to avoid.

“If we can anticipate the potential risks of social media use, you can create content without worrying about doing something unprofessional,” he said.

TikTok content

Dizon said he used the platform to raise public awareness of cancer because many people “don’t really pay attention to what is going on in oncology until someone close to them or they themselves are diagnosed with cancer. ”

Many people, he added, do not think about ways to lower their risk of cancer or maintain healthy lifestyles that can lower their risk of cancer.

In addition, Dizon said its content includes information about the medical system and its relationship with oncology.

“There are some really great lessons to be learned for life in general – and certainly for people living in conditions other than oncology – but I just wanted to raise awareness about them, and that’s what led me to do so [on TikTok],” he said.

In addition to addressing medical issues, Dizon said he passionately used TikTok as an opportunity to break the image of the “doctor as a deity” and show users the “more human side of medicine.”

Chiang said he is focused on intestinal health, including conditions he treats as an advanced endoscopist and weight loss, as another area of ​​his practice is bariatric endoscopy.

In the past year, he also spoke about COVID-19 in many of his posts and previously included his experience with medical education and training in his content.

“I try to make things fun and enjoyable and I think people generally enjoy that,” said Chiang.

Sometimes it includes short sketches or medical information in trendy TikTok dances.

“I’ve always put a medical spin on it. If people really enjoyed this type of video, they can expect a more medical angle from my ending,” he said.

Fix misinformation

TikTok can also be used to fix misinformation on medical topics, according to Dizon. He had previously created a post after noticing that people are considering dieting to alkalize their bodies.

“Anyone who’s ever studied physiology – and of course I had to go to medical school – understands that you can’t alkalize your body, that we have safe systems that do [the] The body builds up to maintain a normal pH, ”he said.

Chiang also said he is using TikTok to fix medical misinformation.

“As with any other social media platform, there is a lot of misinformation [on TikTok]and people who talk about medical topics don’t have any real medical training, ”he said.

For example, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Chiang said that many users posted content that may not have been misinformation but nonetheless misinterpreted the data available.

Hence, it’s important for medical professionals to put data into context for the average TikTok user, Chiang said.

“When we’re not on these social media platforms as health professionals, the conversation is dominated by people who don’t have the appropriate training,” he said.

Medical advice vs. education

Both Dizon and Chiang said it was necessary to distinguish general recommendations from medical advice.

Dizon stressed that medical professionals on TikTok should not offer personalized advice as they do not have patient relationships with anonymous users and do not have the users’ full medical records.

Instead, Dizon said his focus is on delivering information to people that is relevant to the general public.

“I have always made a clear distinction between individualized medical advice and medical training. In general, individualized medical advice is not allowed on any social media platform, ”said Chiang. “But there are certain ways to educate the public about various health issues, and that’s how I would always do it from an educational perspective.”

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were concerns that the public had downplayed the weight of the situation. It is therefore important for doctors to provide information and explanations about the pandemic.

“If I do this in an engaging way on TikTok, I think it can reach a whole different audience,” said Chiang. “Now there are TikTok users who span the entire age group, but initially it was mostly a younger audience and these people may not watch the regular news channels like others do. So it is very helpful to get this information out and answer these questions. “

He added that TikTok displays content based on popularity – not just based on accounts that users are following – so that these types of posts can reach a wider audience than other social media platforms.

“TikTok is something of a jack-of-all-trades. As long as it’s engaging enough and people are interacting with that content, there’s a chance it could go viral and even reach millions at a time,” said Chiang. “I’ve had several videos that were viewed well over 1, 2, 3 million times on TikTok.”

Chiang said doctors can recommend TikTok as a source of medical information to their teenage patients as long as they follow health care professionals with verified accounts.

“I think there are a lot of healthcare professionals on TikTok right now talking about different areas of expertise. It would be great if they followed and studied in general. Not to be taken as medical advice as everyone has a specific situation to deal with when they have a specific illness, ”he added.


Tick ​​tock. Why we are suing the administration. Accessed January 26, 2021.


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