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Medical Education Videos for the World: An Analysis of Viewing Patterns for a YouTube Channel

Tackett, Sean, MD, MPH; Slinn, Kyle, RN, MEd; Marshall, Tanner, MS; Gaglani, Shiv, MBA; Waldman, Vincent, PhD; Desai, Rishi, MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002118
Research Reports

Purpose Medical education videos can enhance learning and easily integrate into common instructional methods. YouTube permits worldwide access to high-quality medical education videos; however, no studies have described the reach of medical education videos on YouTube or what topics are preferred.

Method One year of YouTube analytics data (February 1, 2016, to January 31, 2017) was collected for a medical-education-focused channel called Osmosis. Created December 20, 2015, the channel had 189 disease-focused videos by January 2017. Viewer and subscriber data were analyzed according to the World Bank’s four income and seven region classifications. Topic viewing was analyzed according to income level.

Results The channel had accumulated 105,117 subscribers and 5,226,405 views for 20,153,093 minutes (38.3 years) from viewers located in 213/218 (97.7%) World Bank economies. While the number of videos increased 4.8-fold from February 2016 to January 2017, monthly views increased 50-fold and subscribers increased 117-fold. Low- or middle-income countries generated 2.2 million (42%) views and 52,942 (50%) subscribers, with similar view proportions across income level during the 12 months. A plurality of views (1.5 million; 29%) came from North America; Sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest number (150,065; 2.9%). Topic viewing generally corresponded to population health statistics.

Conclusions Medical education content on YouTube can immediately and consistently reach a global viewership with relevant content. Educators may consider posting videos to YouTube to reach a broad audience. Future work should seek to optimize assessment of learning and investigate how videos may affect patients.

S. Tackett is assistant professor of medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and research director, Osmosis, Baltimore, Maryland.

K. Slinn is project manager and instructional designer, Osmosis, Baltimore, Maryland.

T. Marshall is lead illustrator, Osmosis, Baltimore, Maryland.

S. Gaglani is a medical student, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and cofounder and CEO, Osmosis, Baltimore, Maryland.

V. Waldman is an illustrator, Osmosis, Baltimore, Maryland.

R. Desai is clinical instructor in pediatrics, Division of Infectious Disease, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, California, and chief medical officer, Osmosis, Baltimore, Maryland.

Funding/Support: This work was supported by a Pioneer Grant (no. 71643) from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Other disclosures: Dr. Tackett receives salary support from Osmosis for research and scholarship. Mr. Marshall, Mr. Slinn, Dr. Waldman, and Dr. Desai were involved in development and administration of the Osmosis YouTube channel and receive salary support. Mr. Gaglani is cofounder and CEO of Osmosis.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Previous presentations: Portions of this study were presented as a poster at the Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference, Washington, DC, April 8, 2017, and at the Association for Medical Education in Europe Conference, Helsinki, Finland, August 29, 2017.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Correspondence should be addressed to Sean Tackett, 5200 Eastern Ave., MFL Center Tower Suite 2300, Baltimore, MD 21224; telephone: (410) 550-1785; e-mail:

© 2018 by the Association of American Medical Colleges