Radiology in 60 Seconds: Welcome to TikTok

January 30, 2021
Whitney J. Palmer

The latest social media networking platform offers greater opportunities for radiology.

First, it was YouTube. Then, SnapChat. Now, TikTok is the latest platform to open up a new social networking avenue for radiology.

Radiologists might make up a small portion of registered TikTok user so far, but according to a team from New York University Langone Health, the video-sharing service has created a unique opportunity for radiology providers to create customized content and interact with the specialty’s non-physician personnel.

“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,” said the team led by NYU Langone abdominal imaging specialist Vinay Prabhu, M.D., MS.

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In fact, the team said, as the world’s fastest-growing social media network, TikTok presents huge potential with some individual accounts reaching as many as 90,000 followers and achieving 1,000,000 video plays. Prabhu’s team published its findings in the March-April issue of Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.

Given TikTok’s specific digital nature, it could be the best social media fit to-date for radiology, they said.

“Content can be easily edited and overlaid with music, text, and other special effects with minimal to no technological experience required,” the team explained. “These capabilities may prove particularly attractive in the field of radiology, which requires the clear display and annotation of images and video clips.”

Social media is not new to radiology. Providers have been using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram for years. TikTok, though, has been slow to catch on since launching in 2017. Consequently, Prabhu’s team set out to assess radiology-related content on the platform, identifying areas for potential engagement.

To learn more, the team collected 284 radiology-related posts that had been published since TikTok’s launch. They determined that 187 came from unique users – 81 percent were non-physicians, and 5 percent were radiologists.

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Their analysis did shed some light on how radiology professionals – physicians and non-physicians – are already using this social media platform. Overall, the 284 posts garnered an average of 1,520 plays, 60 likes, and two comments.

In addition, most posts radiologists made (65 percent) were clinical, and 88 percent of those were of imaging cases. By modality, 45 percent were CT-related, 30 percent were X-ray-related, 15 percent were MRI-related, and 3 percent were related to fluoroscopy, ultrasound, and mixed-imaging modalities each. COVID-19 was also the topic for 38 percent of the posts.

Based on their evaluation, the team also determined 65 percent of posts were work-related, 24 percent were clinically related, 11 percent were personal, and 1 percent were promotional. Overall, work-related posts showed providers and radiology personnel having fun at work or showing pride in their institutions, as well as airing frustrations. Clinical posts, the team said, were largely educational or offered patient perspectives or training information. Radiologists and their colleagues did show their more relaxed sides via humor or music in the personal posts.

Given their findings, the team said, more radiologists should consider signing up for and regularly using TikTok.

“With its large non-physician user base, TikTok provides radiologists a unique opportunity to safely engage non-physician 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,” they said. “We suggest that more radiologists use this medium for clinical content creation, professional engagement, and contemporary discussion.”

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