HealthTrust: A social network approach for retrieving online health videos

Luis Fernandez-Luque, Randi Karlsen, Genevieve B. Melton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: Social media are becoming mainstream in the health domain. Despite the large volume of accurate and trustworthy health information available on social media platforms, finding good-quality health information can be difficult. Misleading health information can often be popular (eg, antivaccination videos) and therefore highly rated by general search engines. We believe that community wisdom about the quality of health information can be harnessed to help create tools for retrieving good-quality social media content. Objectives: To explore approaches for extracting metrics about authoritativeness in online health communities and how these metrics positively correlate with the quality of the content. Methods: We designed a metric, called HealthTrust, that estimates the trustworthiness of social media content (eg, blog posts or videos) in a health community. The HealthTrust metric calculates reputation in an online health community based on link analysis. We used the metric to retrieve YouTube videos and channels about diabetes. In two different experiments, health consumers provided 427 ratings of 17 videos and professionals gave 162 ratings of 23 videos. In addition, two professionals reviewed 30 diabetes channels. Results: HealthTrust may be used for retrieving online videos on diabetes, since it performed better than YouTube Search in most cases. Overall, of 20 potential channels, HealthTrust’s filtering allowed only 3 bad channels (15%) versus 8 (40%) on the YouTube list. Misleading and graphic videos (eg, featuring amputations) were more commonly found by YouTube Search than by searches based on HealthTrust. However, some videos from trusted sources had low HealthTrust scores, mostly from general health content providers, and therefore not highly connected in the diabetes community. When comparing video ratings from our reviewers, we found that HealthTrust achieved a positive and statistically significant correlation with professionals (Pearson r10 = .65, P = .02) and a trend toward significance with health consumers (r7 = .65, P = .06) with videos on hemoglobinA1c, but it did not perform as well with diabetic foot videos. Conclusions: The trust-based metric HealthTrust showed promising results when used to retrieve diabetes content from YouTube. Our research indicates that social network analysis may be used to identify trustworthy social media in health communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Luis Fernandez-Luque, Randi Karlsen, Genevieve B Melton.


  • Diabetes
  • Health communication
  • Information storage and retrieval
  • Medical informatics
  • Online systems
  • Video


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