COMMENTARY: Social Distancing via TikTok: Education During COVID-19

What your physician is reading through on Medscape.com:

APRIL fifteen, 2020 — As medical practitioners commit hours upon hours treating individuals and the relaxation of the earth spends their time at the rear of shut doors, it really is tough to engage with 1 another. Social distancing has remaining numerous people today feeling isolated and browsing for solutions about COVID-19.

A person avenue I’ve discovered handy, in both equally partaking with other folks and delivering solutions (as very well as busting myths), is social media, notably the TikTok app.

TikTok, launched in 2017, is a social media system that has been downloaded about a billion occasions. Catering to teens and younger adults, people make fifteen- to 60-2nd videos, normally established to trending tunes or popular sound clips. The app is established up in a way that makes it possible for videos to go viral usually. Generally, millions of views can take place about just 24 hours.

When scrolling via TikTok, you are pretty much guaranteed to stumble throughout a professional medical online video, particularly these days throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. On the app, you could see registered nurses training suitable handwashing though singing a popular music or a medical doctor dancing though educating on social distancing. The spirit of the app is to produce material that is imaginative, entertaining, and exciting.

The prospective of TikTok as a public well being device is also staying regarded by big well being and information organizations. The World Health and fitness Organization and the Washington Submit are applying the system to teach and notify about COVID-19.

But TikTok isn’t without controversy in how professional medical experts are applying the system.

So how does this translate to professional medical experts on TikTok? How do we convey significant and sobering public well being information and facts on the app though also entertaining the audience—often our individuals or future individuals? And how do we do this now, amid COVID-19, when these a really serious pandemic is leading to worry amongst us all, together with medical practitioners?

My TikTok Journey

I downloaded the TikTok app in Could 2019. I spent a handful of weeks scrolling via silly clips of children creating dances motivated by math equations, a younger mom providing tips on couponing, and a university college student drawing cartoon characters. The material was entertaining, silly, and normally instructional. I certainly beloved it.

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Nevertheless, I was astonished by the lack of well being-relevant material. Impressed by my 6 decades of operate in well being education just before professional medical college and curiosity in well being advocacy, I decided to produce the instructional content I felt was lacking. I targeted on material that I assumed was relevant to the younger demographic applying the app: these topics as intrauterine gadgets, vaping, LGBTQ well being, and essential anatomy.

The reaction was even larger than I would have at any time envisioned.

My TikTok videos promptly garnered millions of views and resulted in heaps of media coverage in the United States and other nations. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, I understood that the system was heading to be a crucial device for public well being messaging.

Teens Rely on Doctors on Social Media

As the COVID-19 pandemic strike the United States, a issue arose that young generations are not using social isolation or cleanliness suggestions significantly. In fact, the US Surgeon Common questioned social media influencers to use their platforms to engage and notify young Americans about COVID-19.

In reaction, I shifted my material to concentrate on COVID-19 and what every single particular person man or woman can do to assistance prevent distribute of this disease. And guess what? It is absolutely doing work. Soon after making a video explaining why social distancing is so significant, a follower replied, “I didn’t utilized to realize it. Thank you for using the time to make clear this!”

In reaction to a online video on practical cleanliness tips, a follower commented, “I was overwhelmed and nervous, but this manufactured me experience a whole lot superior.” People today are seeking for information and facts about COVID-19 from reliable experts and experience at ease learning via social media.

Nevertheless, TikTok also has the prospective to distribute inappropriate or misleading material to vast audiences. A handful of professional medical experts have made videos that make entertaining of individuals or are downright impolite. (I am not heading to link to unique examples so that we you should not carry far more consideration to detrimental material.) Some accounts pose as professional medical experts and distribute false information and facts about the COVID-19 pandemic. These videos produce better distrust involving the public and healthcare experts. As usual, a handful of negative apples can spoil the bunch.

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This has sparked controversy, with numerous professional medical experts asking whether doctors really should use TikTok at all as an instructional device throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the medical practitioners and other well being experts I follow, even so, are just that—professional. Like any technological device, if utilized appropriately, TikTok is a venue to present crucial well being information and facts to the masses.

Advice to Professional medical Specialists on TikTok

TikTok is an very strong avenue for well being education and advocacy operate for a handful of explanations. On the app, well being material has the prospective to get to hundreds of thousands of people today inside of minutes. The audio and visual instruments present a exclusive instructional practical experience.

Provided that the spirit of TikTok revolves close to comedy, goofiness, and dancing, even so, professional medical experts will have to take added treatment to guarantee that their COVID-19–related material is appropriate and specialist. Obtaining issues receiving motivated? Talk to a colleague to assistance you with a online video.

Listed here are the ten most significant lessons I have figured out about professionalism and TikTok about the previous calendar year.

  1. Determine your intention on the app. Skilled social media accounts really should be utilized for education, advocacy, and recruitment, not private fame or get-prosperous-quick strategies. Particularly throughout this pandemic.
  2. Under no circumstances produce material at the cost of a affected person or household. Jokes about affected person treatment are never ever ok. Recall, the objective is engagement, not estrangement.
  3. Do your study, use evidence-based information and facts, and cite your resources. Not only is this the moral thing to do, but it also helps people exercise wondering critically about the information and facts they see on social media. We need to give a united concept throughout this time of uncertainty.
  4. Speak to what you are an pro in. I, as a household medicine resident, really should steer clear of providing professional medical suggestions about dental surgical treatment, so I you should not. When I do make videos, they are on topics I am very well-versed in and examine on a regular basis with individuals in the clinic.
  5. Be conscious of the tunes you decide on for your videos. Numerous popular tracks contain vulgar messages that are not appropriate to be paired with professional medical information and facts. Recall, this is a popular app for little ones of many ages. You you should not want to offend a younger man or woman or a mum or dad.
  6. Movie in a location that respects the privacy of individuals, personnel, and coworkers. If you are filming at operate, converse with your supervisor about an authorised private location to do so.
  7. Recall that if you examine your profession on social media, you are representing that profession to the earth.
  8. Be really watchful if telling a affected person tale. Affected individual stories can be strong for education and advocacy, but no affected person really should face a publish and question, Are they speaking about me? Always, often either get affected person consent or modify the aspects enough so you are not reflecting a serious person’s tale.
  9. Only publish material you would be ok with staying on the cover on the New York Occasions. Social media posts can go viral—for fantastic and for negative. So be smart about your material.
  10. Have entertaining and be yourself!

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