Study Suggests Guidelines to Improve YouTube Video Content for Patients with Diabetes and Other Chronic Health Conditions

The findings of a study suggest that health care providers and organizations should follow a set of guidelines for producing engaging, easily digestible YouTube content that helps patients with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, managing their diagnoses.

The researchers specifically focused on how users engage with medical information on diabetes because it stands as one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the US.

The study, conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Utah, the University of Arizona, and Michigan State University, was published in the journal MIS Quarterly.

To conduct this study, the researchers used over 200 search terms to compile a list of 19,873 unique YouTube videos that were uploaded by individual users as well health care organizations, such as Mayo Clinic, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Nutrition Association. Next, they used a deep learning method to identify medical terms found in videos before grouping videos based on how much medical information they contained. They also focused on different ways these videos presented information, via text and images. Subsequently, the researchers assessed the data to determine how viewers collectively paid attention to the videos in different ways.

Maintaining YouTube Viewers’ Attention

According to the results of the study, viewers who watched YouTube videos that contained limited medical information (e.g. videos filled with unsubstantial claims or excessive ads) typically did not engage with the videos, suggesting the need for medical content. However, the study also found that viewers who watched YouTube videos saturated with medical terms also struggled to maintain attention. The authors noted that considering the low levels of health literacy in the US, viewers may become intimidated by seeing an abundance of medical terminology.

“Our study helps health care practitioners and policymakers understand how users engage with medical information in video format,” says study co-author Rema Padman, professor of management science and healthcare informatics at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College in a press release. “It also contributes to enhancing current public health practices by promoting the development of guidelines for the content of educational videos that aim to help people cope with chronic conditions.”

Based on their findings, the researchers suggest that specific guidelines should be developed for individuals and organizations that produce YouTube content so they can provide engaging and relevant material to patients with chronic conditions. They recommend using automated video retrieval – a method which identifies, and labels videos based on their level of content to accommodate patients’ varying levels of comprehending medical information.

“As organizations produce health-related educational materials for patients, they should think not only about what medical information to deliver, but also how to meet the interest, information needs, and health-literacy levels of the consumers,” Prof. Padman suggests. “Creators of these materials should use technology and online solutions to reach patients with complex chronic conditions with personalized, contextualized, and just-in-time content.”