YouTube Health invites medical professionals to apply for health product features boosting visibility, credibility

YouTube Health has unlocked a new door for health professionals to bring high quality health information into the homes of patients.

Medical professionals can now apply to make their videos eligible for the popular video-sharing app’s health product features, which were launched last year and were previously only available to educational institutions, public health departments, hospitals and government entities.

Licensed doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and healthcare information providers must show that their content follows best practices for health information sharing as determined by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies (CMSS), the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and have a channel in good standing on YouTube. Approved channels will receive a health source information panel to confirm their medical credibility, and their videos will appear in search results for health content.

“It’s important that information be not just credible but engaging at the same time,” Garth Graham, M.D., director and global head of healthcare and public health at YouTube, told Fierce Healthcare. “Healthcare is still at the point where we're distributing information to patients in flyers and pamphlets and even billboards. I would say those days are becoming more antiquated in terms of healthcare communication; people are looking for information as part of their daily journey. They're looking for it to show up on their phone at the time they have questions looking for answers. So it’s important for us to evolve that communication to where people are.”

Additional requirements from YouTube Health denote that the channel must be mostly comprised of medically informative videos, have more than 2,000 valid public watch hours in the last year and follow YouTube monetization policies. To follow best practices for health information sharing as defined by CMSS, NAM and the WHO, a channel must demonstrate alignment with NAM principles by its content being science-based, objective and transparent and accountable.

Health content creators in the U.S. can now apply for the distinction. Outside the U.S., medical professionals will be able to apply at a later date, aside from nurses, who must be licensed within the U.S. to apply.

“Many years ago, we clinicians may have been more apprehensive when patients came into the visit armed with their own set of information,” Graham said. “But I'm now starting to realize more and more that that's a good thing, because it's a part of the patient engaging in their own journey, acquiring information that then empowers them to make decisions. That clinician interaction, the time we have with the patient, is still a part of their journey.”

Video platforms like YouTube and TikTok are increasingly where new generations are looking for information. Google, YouTube’s parent company, has followed the trend and now includes images and videos, including TikTok videos, in its search engine results.

Many corners of the health industry have rejected traditional ads for direct-to-consumer videos featuring phallic vegetables inspired by emojis, conversations dominating the zeitgeist around health inequity promoting inclusive clinical trials and flashy marketing videos reflecting a new generation of outreach.  

Amid sluggish booster uptakes, the Department of Health and Human Services released an ad on television and YouTube nodding to a modern viral video style.

In mid-September, YouTube unveiled a collaborative program with the Kaiser Family Foundation called THE-IQ, or Tackling Health Equity through Information Quality. The partnership provides seed funding and video production expertise to organizations addressing health inequity.

“Trust comes in a variety of ways; it comes in trust in terms of trust of credentials, but also trust that you are a relatable source that understands where I am, where the user may be coming from, in general,” Graham said.

YouTube channels like Doctor Mike, with 10.3 million subscribers, and Osmosis, which has received hundreds of millions of views, have tapped into the public’s desire to access medical information in an engaging way.

Graham said the expansion of YouTube’s health product features has been in the works for some time as health misinformation ran rampant during the pandemic and mistrust of the medical establishment spread. By placing videos on credited health content shelves and higher in feeds, Graham hopes that trust can be rebuilt and well-informed medical knowledge can expand.

YouTube Health has reciprocated that trust with patients by creating a shelf for personal stories relevant to search topics. The section was built after YouTube’s data revealed that users were not searching for health information but what Graham calls “human questions.”

“People come to YouTube with questions that are not necessarily just about treatment, but just, 'how do I exist? How do I cope? How do I deal with kind of the challenges here?'” Graham said. “And so that's an important component of where video platforms like ours can allow people to get a lot of information in the context of their own lives but also don’t have to have all the medical jargon.”

COVID exposed the challenges and opportunities within healthcare overall, Graham said. As COVID becomes chronic, Graham sees it enter a collection of diseases that can be best addressed on a public health level.

Chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and hypertension are being searched for more. Information also needs to increase around regular screenings, vaccinations and the upcoming flu season, according to Graham. Another area that Graham says has been a high search driver is women’s and maternal health.

“Whenever I see things like this, I always worried that the traditional ways of that information being distributed and circulated is not necessarily meeting the needs of the audience,” Graham said. “I don't necessarily think it's a marker of any disease process that is having more impact on morbidity and mortality than others, but I think it’s indicative of people looking for answers and then it not being ultimately clear where they can find answers.”

Graham thinks this announcement is only the beginning of getting credible health information to patients in an engaging way at scale. What is in journals and textbooks needs to reach dinner tables and college dorm rooms, Graham said. That gap must be closed so when a person can’t call their doctor at 4 a.m., they can go to YouTube and be well informed.