Radiology can serve as a ‘force’ to steer conversation on world’s fastest growing social media app

Radiologists could potentially serve as a “force” to steer conversations on TikTok, the world’s fastest growing social media application, researchers urged on Sunday.

Around since 2017, the video-based platform has skyrocketed in popularity, with more than 500 million active users and 1 billion downloads. Yet, few in the specialty utilize it, NYU Langone Health experts noted. Scouring the platform for radiology-related content, they pinpointed just 187 users talking about the profession, with only 5% identified as radiologists or trainees.

Corresponding author Vinay Prabhu, MD, and colleagues believe there is opportunity for physicians in imaging to harness this novel social media tool for myriad uses, before most others in medicine. They see “huge potential,” with some individual posts generating 1 million-plus views and hundreds of comments.

“Our findings describe an important and timely opportunity for radiologists to be early adopters of this popular platform in order to generate clinically oriented content, engage professionally, and discuss contemporary topics,” Prabhu, a clinical assistant professor at New York University who specializes in abdominal imaging, and colleagues wrote Nov. 15 in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

To reach their conclusions, researchers retrieved the top 300 TikTok posts by querying the word “radiology.” They further categorized this information, looking at publicly available profiles to determine number of followers and posts, comments, etc.

Prabhu et al. unearthed 284 radiology-related posts, broadcast by 187 users with a median of 119 followers. The vast majority (81%) were nonphysician imaging personnel, while just nine were identified as actual radiologists. However, researchers noted that rad-posted videos had greater engagement, producing a median of 3,643 views compared to 1,282 for non-MD posters.

The majority of TikTok posts were work-related at 65%, followed by clinical topics (24%), personal matters (11%), or promotional information (1%). Roughly 38% of updates mentioned the pandemic, which increased to 48% after the first U.S. case, and coronavirus-related updates garnered significantly more comments than those that did not, signaling an opening.

“During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, safe social distancing practices have challenged our social connections, making it harder to forge bonds via direct contact with those at work,” Prabhu and co-authors wrote. “With its large nonphysician user base, TikTok provides radiologists a unique opportunity to safely engage nonphysician radiology personnel, actively facilitating interdisciplinary discussion during times of social distance, as these groups post videos and play, comment on, and like one another's videos.”

Read much more on their findings in CPIDR here.