In the midst of a busy emergency department (ED) shift, it’s common for an emergency physician to consult UpToDate, WikiEM, and YouTube to obtain information on a medication dosage or some zebra of a medical condition. It is our practice to review a YouTube video of a paracentesis just before doing one or referencing UpToDate to dose sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim for a child. In recent years, social media has taken the world of medicine by storm and the sharing of medical knowledge has grown on these open platforms. In fact, a recent study showed that up to 70 percent of physicians in the United States use social media in some capacity.1 Launched in 2017, TikTok, a video-based social media platform, has evolved past the original Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram era and has grown to over one billion active global users. Its under 60-second video format appeals to society’s shortening attention spans.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 42 – No 04 – April 2023
Just-in-time training and information recovery is a major reason an emergency physician may use TikTok over other social media platforms like YouTube.3 The average YouTube video is 11 minutes in length and an emergency physician may have only a minute to brush-up on a procedure or treatment plan while working in a busy emergency department.4 There are many time-related metrics in our practice like time to tPA or time to the cardiac catheterization lab and obtaining information as quickly as possible becomes more important. Whether it is a brief video prior to a central venous catheter insertion or an update on COVID-19 treatment recommendations, TikTok may be more advantageous to the emergency physician instead of a lengthy explanation on YouTube or long Twitter thread minutes before performing the task at hand. Perhaps that is why other major social media platforms have adopted TikTok’s model such as YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.5 Can emergency medicine physicians harness the power of TikTok to expand their networks, connect with colleagues, and provide meaningful education? Dr. Adam Goodcoff (@seethemedlife) is one of the largest emergency medicine educators on TikTok. His videos have titles such as “There are so many Diabetes Meds” and “Got a nose bleed? Watch this!” These videos are augmented with text boxes, music, and graphics that highlight the messaging.6
With colleagues, I conducted a study to analyze TikTok content related to the field of emergency medicine with the goal to gather key insights on the nature of the content and creators on this new frontier. We performed a systematic search with a group of medical students on December 4, 2022, searching for all content under the hashtag #emergencymedicine. We discovered that almost half of the videos were created by physicians and found that around half of the videos contained educational material. We also found that most videos created for entertainment purposes were directed towards an audience with a medical background. Take for example Dr. Glaucomflecken (@drglaucomflecken), whose 2.1 million followers and international prestige propelled him to the keynote stage at ACEP Scientific Assembly in San Francisco.