Saturday, July 24, 2021

Doctors launch foray on TikTok in mission against fake news

Juggling their clinic duties with the additional role of being content creators is hard, but they are determined to do what they can to battle misinformation online.

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For Dr Samhan Awang, each day at work is packed to the brim. From the moment he sets foot in Klinik Perubatan Hijraa Chendering, Kuala Terengganu, to the moment he can finally go home, he tends to patients with a myriad of health concerns.

On particularly busy days, he treats patients with life-threatening illnesses and, if need be, makes house calls to provide medical attention for patients who cannot make their way to his clinic.

At 34, Samhan is no stranger to the pressures and busyness of the medical profession.

Now, though, he has another role to play as well. He is also a content creator on popular video-sharing platform TikTok, a job he has held since December last year.

Every day, he creates and posts at least two videos on any health topic, from dealing with period cramps to tackling post-partum depression.

His clips have received an enthuastic response from viewers – the good doctor currently has some 544,700 followers.

His most popular video to date, a step-by-step guide on how to ease back pain, has been viewed more than 8.7 million times.

Samhan, who previously dispatched medical advice on Twitter and Facebook as well, said TikTok posts require much more work.

For one, the platform imposes a time limit of 60 seconds per clip. This means that Samhan has to cram as much information as he can into just one minute.

This is often impossible for something as complex as medical advice.

“Currently, I do my videos in multiple parts to ensure that no important details are missing,” Samhan told MalaysiaNow.

“But it is still advisable for viewers to read up on the matter.”

And while he is working to improve his videos, he knows that some explanations could be better presented.

He does his best to post two to three videos each day, but this depends on his schedule at the clinic.

On why he persists in his digital endeavours despite his already significant workload, Samhan said he believes it is important to educate the public about health issues, especially given the wealth of misinformation readily available online.

“My ultimate goal is to educate and correct this misinformation to help the public understand the reasoning behind medical advice, and to help them be more compliant to treatment.”

So far, he appears to be succeeding. His videos have an average of over 200,000 views.

Samhan is not alone in his efforts to dispel the clouds of misinformation online.

Dr Tai Weng Yew of Poliklinik Tan in Baling, Kedah, has been busy creating videos as well. His most popular clip, about the signs of high cholesterol, was posted just this month. It has so far been viewed nearly 600,000 times.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he said it is important to have medical experts on the platform to expose the truth about fake news that goes viral on social media.

“When we have doctors on social media to talk about health, it can boost people’s confidence in the topic,” he said.

Tai has 20,370 followers on TikTok. Like Samhan, he said it can be difficult to explain medical issues which makes it especially important to focus on the essential details to avoid further misinformation.

“It’s difficult to fit every piece of information in one video,” he said. “People have to understand, there are a thousand ways to inform people about certain topics. Even doctors can give false information.”

His advice is to stick with the simplest explanation.

“The most important thing is to always get your facts correct.”

Dr Nadzirah Abdullah, an aesthetician, said misinformation abounds about beauty products as well. It was her concern over harmful skin whitening products that go viral online which spurred her to join TikTok.

“These harmful beauty products are cheap but they cause more harm than good,” she said. “It seems that everyone wants to look fair, but for me, having healthy skin is better.”

Now, Nadzirah has over 48,700 followers.

She said each video she posts requires extensive planning with her team to ensure that fake news is not spread even further.

“Usually I spend two days a week planning and recording the videos with my team,” she said.

“I only put the important points so the clips may be short, but they are also informative.”

She urged social media users to always check their sources of information, especially when the matter at hand relates to their health.

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