Study Details Prevalence, Popularity of Ophthalmic Misinformation on TikTok

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An analysis of more than 700 videos on TikTok reveals new insight into the levels and purveyors of misinformation in the most popular ophthalmology content on the platform.

Dagny Zhu, MD | Credit: X.com

Dagny Zhu, MD
Credit: X.com

A new study is shining a spotlight on misinformation within ophthalmology content circulating on social media.

An analysis of more 3 dozen ophthalmology-related hashtags on TikTok suggests more than 5% of all videos contained misinformation and identified a significant correlation between content created by non-healthcare providers and containing misinformation. Investigators also called attention to a disproportionately greater percentage of bookmarks on these videos.1

Key Highlights

  • More than 5% of TikTok's most popular ophthalmology content contains, with this coming primarily from non-healthcare providers.
  • Just 16.9% of the more than 700 analyzed videos were created by ophthalmologists.

“A significant portion of popular ophthalmologic content on TikTok is created by non-eyecare providers and contains misinformation. Our findings confirm the need for ophthalmologists to create more engaging, actionable, and factual educational content to combat misinformation adoption,” wrote investigators.1

Since its inception in the 1960s, the internet has served as a platform for communication. In the 21st century, the integration of this technology into the daily lives of billions across the globe has allowed for the spread of information at levels that were once inconceivable. In the latter half of the century, social media has emerged as a primary channel for communication, with recent studies suggesting 72% of the public participates in at least one social media platform. However, this increased spread of information with social media platforms has also provided a greater platform for misinformation, particularly in medicine.2

In December 2022, an analysis of 100 videos about attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder found 52% of the videos were misleading, with non-healthcare providers responsible for uploading the majority of misleading videos.3 A study published in January 2023 assessing myopia-related videos on the Chinese version of TikTok found misinformation was presented in 10.1% of these videos and was mainly attributed to for-profit organizations and individual nonmusical users.4

In the current study, a team led by Dagny Zhu, MD, of NVISION Eye Centers, sought to assess the quality of the ophthalmologic content at a more comprehensive level than previous studies. Conducted between April 16, 2023 and May 22, 2023, investigators used 37 different ophthalmology-relevant hashtags and assessed the top 20 most-liked videos per hashtag. The hashtags used by investigators included #ophthalmology, #DryEye, #Glaucoma, #Myopia, #Cataract, #AgeRelatedMacularDegeneration, #LASIK, #RetinaSurgery, and more.1

A total of 723 videos were identified in the investigators' search, with these videos comprising 3.806 billion views. The most popular hashtags were #LASIK (646.1 million views), #Blepharoplasty (402.4 million), #Ophthalmology (399.2 million), #EyeSurgery (287.0 million), #Myopia (267.4 million), and #Ophthalmologist (232.5 million). Investigators pointed out only 18 relevant videos were available for #AgeRelatedMacularDegeneration and only 5 were available for #Trabeculoplasty.1

For the purpose of analysis, the videos were graded on quality based on understandability and attainability using the Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool for Audiovisual Materials (PEMAT-A/V). Investigators also examined trends in creator identity, content type, engagement metrics, misinformation presence, and TikTok verification status.1

Upon analysis, results suggested just 16.9% of the 723 videos were created by ophthalmologists and 35.1% were created by eyesore providers, with the remaining 55.0% created by nonhealthcare providers. Investigators noted the primary types of videos identified were related to personal experiences (35.8%) and education (38.0%). Among the educational videos, investigators determined the mean PEMAT-A/V understandability and actionability scores were 88.1% and 50.6%, respectively.1

Further analysis revealed 5.4% of all videos contained misinformation, with these videos accounting for 4.8% of all likes, 4.7% of all comments, and 11.7% of all bookmarks. Among videos with misinformation, 74.4% were graded as containing a significant amount of misinformation, which indicates more than half of the videos contained misinformation. Investigators highlighted the presence of misinformation was significantly correlated with content created by non-healthcare providers (P <.001), with all videos containing misinformation created by non-ophthalmologists. 1

“To our knowledge, this study provides the first comprehensive overview of ophthalmologic content on TikTok with an emphasis on educational content and misinformation,” investigators added.1

References:

  1. Sampige R, Rodgers EG, Huang A, Zhu D. Education and Misinformation: Exploring Ophthalmology Content on TikTok [published online ahead of print, 2023 Oct 24]. Ophthalmol Ther. 2023;10.1007/s40123-023-00834-6. doi:10.1007/s40123-023-00834-6
  2. Comp G, Dyer S, Gottlieb M. Is TikTok The Next Social Media Frontier for Medicine?. AEM Educ Train. 2020;5(3):10.1002/aet2.10532. Published 2020 Oct 21. doi:10.1002/aet2.10532
  3. Yeung A, Ng E, Abi-Jaoude E. TikTok and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: A Cross-Sectional Study of Social Media Content Quality. Can J Psychiatry. 2022;67(12):899-906. doi:10.1177/07067437221082854
  4. Ming S, Han J, Li M, Liu Y, Xie K, Lei B. TikTok and adolescent vision health: Content and information quality assessment of the top short videos related to myopia. Front Public Health. 2023;10:1068582. Published 2023 Jan 4. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2022.1068582
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