Today’s computer savvy cohorts are more of a visual audience, as YouTube, the world’s biggest video platform, has also found its uses in the healthcare world for both patient and doctor. Video blogs or “vlogs”, which are essentially blogs created in video rather than textual form, provide a therapeutic platform for family, friends and healthcare providers to manage their health by sharing experiences and insights.

Dr Joy Lee, research investigator at Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University sees online patient vlogs as chronicling the good, the bad and the ugly of a specific medical condition which can help both physicians and their patients.

"It is not always easy for physicians to engage patients in their own care," said Dr Lee.

Patients learn to self-manage through vlogging

Recent research suggests that vlogs as health intervention have great potential to facilitate collaboration between patients and providers, and improve patients’ ability to self-manage their disease. Studies carried out in 2012 found that health vlogs can impact patients’ psychological health and also improve health information literacy.

Increasingly, people are relying on them for health management, and this virtual interaction between patients and providers allows for a more honest exchange of concerns and advice, as well as quicker feedback. Through journaling, vloggers often gain clearer insight and ownership over their disease, and forge a sense of community with one another.

According to Dr Lee, "Vlogs may be uniquely suited to overcome barriers to patient engagement for individuals with chronic illnesses, especially those under 50 who increasingly reach out to the internet in so many aspects of their lives.”

“Given the potential impact of online information, physicians and other clinicians should consider familiarising themselves with key vloggers who can provide a window into a disease," she added.

"Physicians should consider vlogs as one more tool that they can provide their patients and help them navigate this important resource," said Dr Lee. "And patients should consider vlogs as dynamic sources of information that can help them cope with their disease experience and ask better questions of their medical team."

Vlogging as a therapeutic solution

Studies also found that vloggers revealed their real-world identity and genuinely shared their everyday struggles face to face with their audiences. Thus, the act of vlogging worked as a healing process for them.

For instance, vlogger Ben created a term “B.I.V.” which stands for Ben Immunodeficiency Virus to tell his viewers that he had taken ownership of himself, not the HIV. Viewers commented that they “loved the idea” and that Ben inspired them.

Another vlog produced by Mary Frey and Peter Frey, a wife and husband team, shares their experiences in managing Mary's cystic fibrosis. These vloggers say that not all vlogs are reliable and suggest that healthcare providers curate lists of vlogs to highlight the more valuable ones to patients and physicians.

Albert Wu, professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said, "Physicians should acknowledge that often they [vloggers] do a better job of engaging some patients, especially younger ones, and should we willing to add vlogs to their therapeutic toolkit." MIMS

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