• Google has removed thousands of COVID-19-related YouTube videos because of policy violations.
  • Doctors are using online video platforms, such as YouTube and TikTok, to educate and engage with patients and quickly release information about COVID-19.
  • Digital tools, including apps that screen for mental health conditions, have become an essential part of health care and are critical for improving efficiency.

Video Transcript


JOHN WHYTE: You're watching Coronavirus in Context. I'm Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD. Joining us again is Dr. David Feinberg. He's the vice president at Google Health. And Bob Brisco. He's the CEO of Internet Brands and WebMD. Gentlemen, thanks for joining me.

DAVID FEINBERG: Great to be here. Thank you.



JOHN WHYTE: --I want to bring up that issue of trust. Um, because Google has been very active in removing thousands of videos on YouTube that have misinformation, sometimes dangerous information, whether it's COVID, uh, or other conditions. Can you talk about some of the efforts that you're making to remove inaccurate information?

DAVID FEINBERG: Yeah, so we want to do a few things. We want to, um-- it's pretty clear-- I used to use this as my example, but now it's incredibly timely. Uh, I'm going to stick with my example. I'm-- uh, you know, drink bleach. It cures cancer. And if that's the YouTube video, it's really clear that violates our policy. It's dangerous. It goes away. Right, that's easy.

Um, drink carrot juice. It cures cancer. Well, that's not likely going to kill you. But as a licensed physician, it's not necessarily something I'd recommend. I don't mind eating carrots. But don't think of that as your treatment. But we probably don't want to completely police those things away. So what do we do?

So what we need to do is create enough content that's engaging such that-- that-- that video is really hard to find. Now, if you have a prejudice and you want to go find it, you could find anything on the internet. So it would be there. But you'd be bombarded with authoritative, engaging information first.

I mean, think about it. The anti-vaxxers, right. The anti-vaxxers don't have YouTube videos that say, don't take vaccines. They're bad. They have engaging vacc-- e-- engaging videos. And what do we have as the health profession? We still have doctors handing out pamphlets.

So how do we make doctors YouTube stars such that that's the medium that people are absorbing information, such that it-- it combats the anti-vaxxer and becomes, um, uh, more available and ingestable. And you're seeing that. I think you're seeing that even on TikTok, where a lot of clinicians are engaging with their audience, giving really good information in a much more, um, up to date, uh, way.

So that's one way we do it. The other is we ask folks like you to keep putting out good information. And the better the information, the more we have page after page of authoritative information before we get to what I would call the junk science. The-- the unsafe stuff is easy. But the-- the middle of the road stuff is the p-- part we want to downgrade, uh, so-- so that our users are getting the right stuff.

We-- we did it with COVID. I mean, it is really clear when you come to our home page on coronavirus, everything has been curated. There is no misinformation when we're-- when you open the Google.com home page and put in coronavirus.

JOHN WHYTE: And then, Bob, you've been a big proponent in-- in terms of even on our Medscape side of making sure we get the best information out there for our physician community as well.

BOB BRISCO: As-- as I mentioned, we serve about 5 million members on Medscape that are, uh, physicians worldwide. And I know from prior discussions I've had with David that YouTube and Google are also used heavily by physicians, um, to-- for continuing education, to unpack topics that they haven't been dealing with recently. Uh, and it's-- it's most central to our role at Medscape to get that information right.

But I'd love to hear from David as well. We've chatted about this before, but-- about the role Google plays on the HCP side.

DAVID FEINBERG: Yeah, so I think we launched it either last week or-- my days are confused. I think it was last week. Um, but on our YouTube site, gave our first playlist called Clinicians for Clinicians. And it's, I think, 12-- I've just watched the first few-- 12 videos for typically the doctor who's now decided to go help out and isn't typically an inpatient, or ICU, or respiratory, or ID doc.

So you know, here's what prone ventilation looks like. Here's how to wear your N95 mask. To-- to take that outpatient doctor and-- God bless them, they're coming in to help where-- where they're needed. So this was a curated playlist.

We see on YouTube and on search that a lot of clinicians, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, uh, et cetera, are coming to us for information. Literally, you-- you get the sense they're about to remove your parathyroid and they just want to check something out on YouTube. So we want to make sure that they're getting authoritative information.

So we have a team together with YouTube working literally to say, OK, how are we going to service these clinicians that are coming to us for what, in many times, is just in-time information.


DAVID FEINBERG: And when I say that to large groups-- you know, hey, your doctor may be looking at YouTube before they operate on you, the lay audience kind of freaks out, and laughs, and gets nervous. And I say, but it's better than when I had a book in my lab coat pocket, right? Because I was still looking at the book. Like, I was going to do a chest tube, and I'd look at it. Don't you want it in video? And don't you want it up to date? Because the book is only as good as when it was printed.

So yeah, docs need information. And so do nurses. And so we have to make sure we provide that.

BOB BRISCO: Dave, I just want to go back to a-- a theme that we've addressed here a little bit. But it's an interesting one. The-- the-- when we step back and we think about the impact of COVID on the health care system, what-- you're saying, and I-- and I'm agreeing, but I want you to talk about a little bit more-- there's an accelerative effect here of the digital transformation, isn't there? Bo-- both in terms of the way physicians are going to use telemedicine and tools, the way patients are going to-- it-- it feel-- it feels like there's an inflection here, doesn't it?

DAVID FEINBERG: It's to-- I-- I totally agree with you. And not only is there inflection, I think it's the silver lining. Because the-- the tsunami that's coming in the next few months in our country and different times in different parts of the world post-COVID are going to be patients with COVID that have medical conditions because they got COVID. We've seen Guillain-Barre. We've seen kidney issues. There's going to be a lot of acute care issues that have not been addressed, because people haven't gone into the doctor. Because if you had a kidney stone, you'd probably say, I'm going to ride this out at home. Because I'm nervous right now about going to the ER.

And then all of the chronic conditions and the typical screenings like mammography and colon-- colonoscopy haven't been done. So we've got these huge groups of patients that are going to show up in these health systems. Plus, the mental health burden, right. So not only is there going to be PTSD among our providers, everybody's psyche is going to be different because of this experience.

And so we have this all coming to a health system that is under incredible financial strain right now. Not only they are emotionally strained because docs had to make decisions about who gets the ventilator. They didn't teach us that in med school, right. So they made really tough decisions. They've been put in harm's way in many cases, because they didn't have protective equipment. And the financial situation of these health systems is dire. You know, hundreds of millions of dollars a month these systems are losing, because they canceled ambulatory service and elective surgery.

And many people, many people in three months, are going to have Medicaid that used to have commercial insurance. So you have Medicare and Medicaid now going to be providing a tremendous amount of care for Americans. The government hasn't been collecting money like it used to because of taxes. It's going to cut funding to health care. It has to. And so you really are setting up a-- a very, very, I think, frightening health care situation in the next few months in America. That's where we want our tools to be able to help.

BOB BRISCO: That is-- I'm so glad you gave us that tremendous overview. I-- I couldn't agree more. We've been using the phrase, we're going to have to shift from flattening the curve to-- to-- flattening the curve to managing the curves, plural, where as the COVID curve starts to bend the right way, we've got all of these other curves that are going the wrong way on deferred testing, on deferred chronic care treatment, on the socioeconomic impact of COVID. And-- and there's this compounding effect that is certainly going to happen.

And it's going to be this critical moment in the world and in our country of-- of, how do we get that balance right amongst managing these curves. And I love the way you're framing it, that the-- the silver lining in this is that digital tools are essential to provide some of the efficiency and effectiveness to make the best of this situation. And you calling it the silver lining resonates with me. I think it's going to take a while for us to see that, because we've got to get through these waves are ahead of us. But I think your framing of that was-- was brilliant. Thank you for that.

DAVID FEINBERG: Thanks. And the one-- the other one that I'm concerned about is the mental health. So 891% increase in calls to suicide hotlines. The number of guns that were bought in March is more than ever. And we know that in-- when people buy guns, there's an increase of suicide by firearm. And we know when the economy's bad, there's, um, an increase in suicides. Um, we're-- we've launched our-- our depression screener and-- both on mobile and desktop. Uh, next month, we're launching an anxiety screener. Already have a PTSD screener.

People come to Google and tell us. They answer the questions about how depressed they are. We got to get them into treatment. Are you a veteran? Can you do a warm handoff to the VA? And we have to get this done because it's going to kill a lot of people if we don't get it right.

JOHN WHYTE: Thank you both for joining me. And thank you for watching Coronavirus in Context. I'm Dr. John Whyte.