How Accurate is Online Medical Information? A Study of Youtube

In the viewpoints section of the latest issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery you can read a short study article about the quality of medical information (specifically on melanoma) available on

Doctors analyzed 100 relevant videos about melanoma to determine their origin, the nature of their production and the quality of their content.

Why would anyone bother studying this?  Because right now, prospective patients of any physician are researching their condition or procedure of interest online.  “39 percent of patients with melanoma used the Internet to research their disease,” according to one study authored by Sabel et al.  When it comes to other medical topics such as cosmetic plastic surgery, the figure is likely higher.

For physicians,  it could be very useful know what patients are studying online so they can possibly adjust their care practices and communication tools.

Results and Discussion

The majority of the “relevant” videos available via youtube were uploaded by reputable sources such as “medical professionals, institutions, news broadcasters, government or non-profit organizations.”   Videos from other sources however, offered information that was misleading and possibly false.   “Our study found two clips showing patients testifying cure of melanoma from alternative therapies with no scientific basis,” write the authors.

Does this imply that video hosting sites like youtube should be censored or regulated when providing medical information?  With so many excellent online resources offering accurate information, it’s unlikely that anyone would argue such a position.  A more convincing argument would be for more open access to authoritative sources.

Read more about “The Availability and Content Analysis of Melanoma Information on Youtube.” in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.

Call us at or contact us online to schedule your consultation today.