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Five tips for educating patients using YouTube

At The Oakwood Surgery in Doncaster we have set up a YouTube account that we use to share videos to help improve patient care. Some of the advice we give to patients involves them doing specific practical things (for example, Brandt-Daroff exercises for BPPV). We thought they’d find it much easier to follow a video demonstration rather than text and diagrams on a black and white printout. We are also trying to get across other information, such as the prescription system, in a way that might reach people who we struggle to engage otherwise.

It’s early days, but as we increase the number of our videos and word continues to spread, we want this to evolve from a resource we direct our patients to for a specific video to somewhere that our patients check for things that are interesting or important to them to facilitate patient empowerment and improve self-care.

1 Choose the right subject

You know your practice and patients better than anyone, so tailor the topics and the level of the content to them. Consider topics which frequently crop up, where you’re not completely satisfied with the resources you currently use (or your patient might stumble on looking themselves), or where there are issues you’re aware of in your community. There’s little point using up your valuable time making a video without a good reason or if the subject doesn’t suit the format.

2 Get across your key messages

Don’t try and do too much in each video or you will lose people’s interest.

Don’t deliver a lecture – these are difficult enough to follow when you’re a medical professional.

Instead, try to have a few key messages and think about how to get this across in an engaging way. For example our video on moles talks about what we look for in terms of the ABCD criteria with normal and abnormal pictures. This was done using free video editing software (VSDC free video editor is one of many available).

3 Make use of your team

Encourage other GPs and staff to get involved when the subject is one they are comfortable with. We have videos starring GP partners, trainee GPs and reception staff so far. Representing the practice like this is a great way to make everyone feel like a truly valued member of the team.

4 Use social media to get the word out

In this age of social media we risk not being able to engage well with large proportions of our patients if we rely solely on traditional face to face/telephone contact, posters in the practice or even the practice website. That’s why our practice has active Facebook and Twitter accounts, which highlight common or interesting medical problems as well as delivering public health messages. We have used these to interact with our patients. They now feature our YouTube videos and we even sought questions for our Reception FAQs video through them.

5 Safety net if needed

Much of the guidance from the BMA/RCGP/defence organisations around social media is not particularly relevant to our YouTube videos and whether there is any potential for problems down the line. We would recommend following their advice around keeping the subject general rather than patient specific and avoiding controversial areas. As these videos may be viewed and acted on by people who haven’t seen a medical professional initially, give serious consideration to safety netting for patient (and potentially your own) protection.

Dr Nabeel Alsindi is a GP in Doncaster