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YouTube for information on rheumatoid arthritis: a wake up call?


Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a common debilitating autoimmune disease, with unmet need for knowledge among patients and the general population. YouTube is a popular, consumer-generated, video-sharing website, which can be a source of information on RA. We investigated the quality of information on RA on YouTube and analyzed audience interaction.


YouTube was searched using the term « Rheumatoid Arthritis, » for videos uploaded on RA. Two physicians independently classified videos as useful, misleading, or patient views, and rated them on a 5-point global quality scale (GQS; 1 = poor quality, 5 = excellent quality). Useful videos were rated for reliability and content, on a 5-point scale (higher scores represent more reliable and comprehensive videos). Source of videos was also noted. Audience interaction was assessed through video viewership.


A total of 102 relevant videos were identified; 54.9% were classified as useful (GQS 2.9 ± 1.0) and 30.4% deemed misleading (GQS 1.3 ± 1.6). Mean reliability and content score of useful videos was 3.2 (± 1.0) and 2.5 (± 1.2), respectively. All videos uploaded by university channels and professional organizations provided useful information but formed only 12.7% of total videos, whereas 73.9% of medical advertisements and videos by for-profit organizations were misleading. There was no difference in the viewership/day (10.0 vs 21.5; p = nonsignificant) of useful and misleading information.


YouTube is a source of information on RA, of variable quality, with wide viewership and potential to influence patients’ knowledge and behavior. Physicians and professional organizations should be aware of and embrace this evolving technology to raise awareness about RA, and empower patients to discriminate useful from misleading information.


J Rheumatol. 2012 May;39(5):899-903. Epub 2012 Apr 1.

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