One of the first questions to ask when you watch or read content from healthcare professionals on social media is: How do we know what’s legit and what’s not? It can be difficult to answer, so it ultimately falls on you to decide whether it’s credible. (Small caveat: as always, we strongly recommend you speak with your primary care physician before attempting to self-diagnose potential health conditions or follow the medical advice of social media influencers, regardless of their real-world credentials.)
Today, TikTok is one of the most used social media apps in the world. It’s estimated to have 1 billion global users creating, viewing and sharing content. Even if you aren’t on TikTok, it’s likely you have viewed or engaged with content produced on TikTok and shared on other social media platforms.
There are some pros to healthcare professionals posting on social media. For example, viewers are more engaged and learning. Certain health subjects sometimes aren’t talked about a lot, or individuals may not have access to such information, so TikTok makes it accessible. It’s a great platform for providing quick and informative content in a way that’s more entertaining than simply reading WebMD.
While TikTok allows for medical information to be shared, it can vary between advice and education. Some doctors might want to educate about various health conditions they diagnose and treat whereas others might share experiences, wisdom and lifestyles. Viewers should be on the lookout for statistics and facts versus generalizations to determine whether they’re receiving information or advaice. Again, it’s always recommended to take any questions you may have to your doctor.
There are some downfalls to medical information when it comes to TikTok. Sometimes, healthcare professionals will take their day-to-day situations and stories to the app. Depending on the severity and how sensitive the information shared is, it could result in a HIPAA violation Penalties can include hefty fines, revocation of licenses, closing of practices or even jail time.
Just last year, one nurse came under fire for a skit she posted. She dressed as one of her patients and began to mock them, claiming they fake being sick. It quickly went viral for her inappropriate behavior. Healthcare professionals are entitled to express health concerns and medical issues online. However, it comes with great responsibility, and there are consequences that come with unprofessional behavior.
TikTok is a great app to connect with healthcare professionals, but the information presented may not be the most accurate. Before accepting medical advice or education, you should examine it from various perspectives. Conduct your own research on the doctor or nurse or even discuss with your own doctor. It’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s credible and what’s not.
Written by: Hailey Phillips