A TikTok Physician Talks Coronavirus Vaccines

A TikTok Doctor Talks Coronavirus Vaccines

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Health information needs to reach people where they are – and people are on social media.

This is a message from Dr. Austin Chiang, a 35-year-old gastroenterologist and chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health, a Philadelphia-based hospital system. On TikTok, Dr. Chiang made engaging and informative short videos on coronavirus infection rates, parasites in sushi, colon cancer symptoms and screenings, and more. Seriously, it's fun learning about acid reflux.

The launch of the U.S. mass vaccination campaign against the coronavirus on Monday will enable health professionals to communicate fully about vaccines to a sometimes skeptical public. Dr. Chiang told me that when he and other health professionals talk about vaccinations and other health information, it is important to talk to people about what they don't know.

Here are edited excerpts from our conversation.

Shira: Why are you doing TikTok videos?

Dr. Chiang: Among other things, I am trying to humanize our profession. I try to show that it's fun but also professional and hopefully people can learn something.

As doctors, we do not receive marketing or communication training, yet we are expected to contribute to our community and public health. We need to meet patients where they are and communicate information in an interesting and digestible way. One of the things that I'm passionate about outside of my clinical work is to encourage more of my colleagues to use social media.

Which of your videos have made a big impact?

One I loved used song lyrics about walking a neighborhood to talk about how physical activity is sometimes a luxury. I made another video that immediately said, "You are probably seeing this because you are constipated," to acknowledge that constipation is a serious problem that many people have.

“How Taiwan Beat Covid” was a message I wanted to convey because I grew up there for part of my life. I wanted to show people that a country can tame the virus, but the same approaches may not work here.

How could you deal with coronavirus vaccines on TikTok?

It's tough. When we, as health professionals, talk about vaccines, people who are vehemently against vaccines can put them out of context for their agenda. That holds me back sometimes.

The approach I'm trying is to leave room for the gray. When you say vaccines do no harm and are the best things in the world, it can alienate people who are reluctant to vaccinate. If, instead, we acknowledge that, like everything else in medicine and life, there are risks, that is a more effective message.

With coronavirus vaccines, I would probably do something with one voice that explains my own reasons for vaccination and the side effects and risk-benefit analysis that I have done in my head and what we will gain from the vaccine.

I'm sure the coronavirus vaccines are confusing for everyone because they are confusing for us too.

How do you have time to make videos?

I make sure that this does not affect patient care. I make videos in my own time. At Jefferson, they see the value of using social media to reach people with caution, of course. The Covid test nurses at Jefferson – the Swab Squad – also have dance routines that they do on their break.

What other health professionals should we follow?

The New England Journal of Medicine does a great job on Instagram. Doctor Mike on YouTube, Dr. Cedric "Jamie" Rutland on Instagram and YouTube, Dr. Esther Choo on Twitter and Dr. Rose Marie Leslie and Dr. Jennifer Lincoln on TikTok are great too.

Economy & Economy


Dec. 14, 2020, 12:00 PM ET

Tip of the week

Brian X. Chen, consumer technology columnist for the New York Times, explains Apple’s new feature to help people better understand what apps are doing with their information:

This week, people with iPhones will see something new while browsing the App Store: the description of each app now includes a privacy label reminding of the nutrition labels on food packaging. (Apple first announced this in June.)

People who want to understand what apps do with their information need to search the app manufacturers' websites for their often vague privacy policies. According to Apple, the labels were designed to give users a quick scan and clearer information about what data the apps are collecting and for what purpose.

The labels present this information in three categories:

Data that will track you through various apps and websites. For example, your contact information can help you determine that you are the same person using a different app where you use the same contact information.

Data associated with you: This is information that is tied to your identity, e.g. B. Your purchase history or contact information.

Data not associated with you: This is information that is not directly linked to you or your account. For example, a map app might say that it collects data from motion sensors to provide turn-by-turn directions, but doesn't store that information in your account or use that data to keep track of what you do in other apps.

How should you use this new information? Before downloading an app, take a look at the privacy label. You will be surprised to find that an app collects data unrelated to the service it provides, like a music app that is constantly collecting your location information.

If you don't like what the company is doing with your data, you can look for an alternative app with a data collection policy that you are more familiar with.

The cutest story ever of a young girl, her fairy tale garden, and a friendly stranger who found solace in being a pen pal for her and her family. You may need tissues. (Many thanks to my colleague Sheera Frenkel for sharing.)

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