Pharmacists Can Utilize YouTube to Educate Patients


Heldenbrand said many patients look to the internet for answers and increasing numbers of patients are turning to YouTube.

As patients increasingly turn to the internet for guidance on their medications, pharmacists can use YouTube to provide much-needed answers to common questions, according to a session presented Monday at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual 2020 Meeting.

Seth Heldenbrand, PharmD, associate dean at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Pharmacy, discussed how he launched RxLearn, a YouTube channel largely managed by students that provides medication counseling videos for more than 150 commonly prescribed drugs.

Heldenbrand said the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (OBRA ’90) requires pharmacists to offer counseling on the name and description of the medication; the route of administration; the dosage and dosage form; the duration of therapy; special directions and precaution for preparation; proper administration and use by the patient; common and serious adverse effects; self-monitoring techniques for drug therapy; proper storage; refill information; and appropriate action in the case of a mixed dose.

Patients can, of course, sign away their right to counseling, and Heldenbrand said they frequently do so without realizing the implications or even knowing what they are signing.

“If you think about it, the most exciting time at a pharmacy is when you can actually see the stapled bag and you’re trying to sign for it and get out of there,” Heldenbrand said. “So how many patients actually do notice that they’re signing away that right?”

As a result, Heldenbrand said many patients look to the internet for answers and increasing numbers of patients are turning to YouTube. In an effort to fill that need, Heldenbrand launched the RxLearn YouTube channel in January 2018.

Before launching a channel, Heldenbrand said faculty leaders should go through several steps to check their institution’s rules and requirements. At UAMS, Heldenbrand first contacted the communications and legal departments before beginning to work with creative services.

He then recruited faculty help and launched an elective course in fall 2016 for P3 students. From that course, 8 students were tasked to write video scripts counseling patients on the top 200 medications. The faculty then vetted the scripts for correctness, completeness, and the appropriate level of health literacy, which Heldenbrand said was about a sixth-grade reading level.

Perhaps most importantly, Heldenbrand was able to partner with the university’s creative services to use their studio space for filming. After students were taught how to use the equipment, they were able to go in during their free time and film the videos independently.

Lastly, Heldenbrand presented an example video to the legal department and received their final approval before beginning to upload videos. The next step, Heldenbrand said, was to begin collecting data.

YouTube provides a wide range of analytics that can be useful, including data on demographics, which videos are the most popular, and how to reach a wider audience. Perhaps the most important information is the most popular videos, which Heldenbrand said are the counseling videos on doxycycline, sildenafil, metronidazole, voltaren, and ciprofloxacin. He added that common themes among the popular videos include antibiotics and 1-time use medications, such as benzonatate.

Heldenbrand said their largest age demographic is between 25 and 34 years of age, with the smallest demographic being between 13 and 17 years of age. This may be because younger populations are not on as many medications, according to Heldenbrand.

Although the production of videos is continuing, Heldenbrand said there are several new projects coming down the pipeline for RxLearn. The team is working with translators at UAMS to get closed captions in multiple foreign languages and hope to produce translated voiceovers, both of which can help bring the channel to a wider audience.

Additionally, the team has also begun producing quick response (QR) codes that link to the videos and would be placed on prescription bags at local pharmacies. This would allow patients to easily access the videos if they have questions but have not spoken to a pharmacist.

Although it can be an intimidating project, Heldenbrand said starting a YouTube channel is a great way for pharmacists to advocate for the profession and educate patients. He emphasized that expensive equipment and a high production quality are not necessary and said data have even shown that viewers are distrustful of overly polished videos.

“If I’m doing anything today, I’m hoping to encourage you guys to think about doing something that’s patient facing that could help patients find information,” Heldenbrand said. “Especially now that we know that patients are way more often than I ever thought going directly to YouTube to search medical and medicine-related information.”


Heldenbrand S. Utilizing YouTube to Deliver Pharmacist Counseling Information for Prescription and Non-Prescription Medicines. Presented at: American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Virtual 2020 Meeting; July 13-31, 2020. Accessed July 13, 2020.

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