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Nuts, Science and YouTube: How Medical Publications Videos Are Adding Value

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire may not have been a bad idea over the holiday season.  According to Ying Bao et al.’s 30-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), people who consume nuts may live longer than those who stay away from such shelled delicacies.  How did I come across this interesting information?  You might assume I read the journal article, but I didn’t.  I watched the video instead.

Beginning in May, the NEJM began posting “Quick Take” videos on its YouTube Channel and website.  Narrated by Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey M. Drazen, these short vignettes explain the methods, results and implications of different studies ranging from the likelihood of finding cancer in lung nodules to the best method for birthing twins.  Each medical publications video has a link to the original journal article so viewers can read the full study if they wish.  Some videos, such as the journal’s vignette about in-flight medical emergencies, are directed at physicians.  Others are geared toward the public-at-large.  These videos feature bright animations, clear graphics and simple language, allowing their messages to reach a wider audience than they would normally with a medical publication.

The NEJM is only getting its feet wet with its Quick Take campaign, but it is not too soon for pharma to follow suit.  Most companies already have YouTube channels they use to communicate customer support, company happenings and drug benefits to consumers, but few have extended these digital marketing techniques into the medical affairs sphere.  Perhaps they should.

It can be difficult for pharma to communicate scientific studies to healthcare professionals because physicians may not have time to digest a dense journal article or pamphlet.  Worse yet, a rushed physician may skim through an article and miss the messages the company hoped to convey.  In many cases, the dense text of any scientific article can bog down a reader and detract from the study’s overall value.

Some journals already offer their writers — be they in academics or pharma — the option of creating a video alongside their articles.  These videos undergo the same editorial and scientific rigor that articles do to ensure that only the most accurate information is published.  Furthermore, companies can track how many viewers have seen their videos; as a result, they can assess a videos potential impact on the scientific community.

Despite these benefits, however, YouTube videos can be a little daunting for many companies because pharma has little control over the related videos and comments section.  On occasion, viewers may post comments about adverse events or off-label uses.  Related content could feature videos that slam the company or its products.  While there are few ways to censor related videos, YouTube and Vimeo allow users to create private videos or channels so that they can restrict access to their viewers.  For example, companies could create lists of healthcare professionals who register to see the companies videos.  While this system may not prevent every troublesome comment, it will curtail potential problems.

Although these videos are relatively new to the life sciences, they can add great value to published studies.  Companies should stop hoping that physicians will take the time to pore over their piles of medical journals.  Instead, companies can take a lesson from Quick Takes and offer healthcare professionals the option of learning about new medical studies in the form of short, entertaining videos that theyre sure to go nuts for.

Natalie DeMasi
Research Team Leader
919-433-0380


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