What is TikTok?

For those of you less social-media-savvy folks, you may have started to hear about the rise of TikTok as the new “IT” social media platform among millennials and post-millennials.

Just so we are all speaking the same language, TikTok (formerly Musical.ly, owned by ByteDance) is a platform used to create and share short-form videos. Their tag line is Real People. Real Videos and their mission is “…to inspire creativity and bring joy”.

According to CNBC, in the first half of 2018, TikTok was the most downloaded app from the Apple App Store with 104 million downloads. Data from App Ape Lab reveals that over 66% of users are under 30 years old.

To marketers, it seems like the most logical platform to target the youth with social media influencers. But does it have a place in the context of healthcare and medical communications? Some doctors seem to think so.

TikTok Docs

Recently the New York Times showcased a few successful and viral TikTok doctors.

MamaDoctorJones tiktok screen

Dr. Danielle Jones (@MamaDoctorJones) is an obstetrician-gynecologist in College Station, Texas. She has successfully used TikTok to teach a younger audience about sex education.


Dr. Rose Marie Leslie (@DrLeslie_MD) is a family medicine resident physician at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She has used TikTok to inform her followers of various public service announcements on topics such as the dangers of vaping, hand hygiene and the importance of HPV vaccines for males.


Dr Leslie tiktok account page
Dr Austin on TikTok

Dr. Austin Chiang (@AustinChiangMD), is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Jefferson Health (Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals) in Philadelphia, PA. He uses his platform to inform followers about various gastrointestinal conditions including cancers such as colon cancer and pancreatic cancer.


Of course, social media would not be complete without a little controversy. Dr. Nicole Baldwin (@NicoleB_MD) a pediatrician in Cincinnati, Ohio used TikTok to share about the benefits of vaccines and to dispel the scientifically unproven myth of vaccinations causing autism.


With this post, CNBC News reported that the video had 1.4 million views and caused very polarizing reactions between pro-vaxxers and anti-vaxxers. From those opposing her views, she has received numerous threats and negative comments.

As TikTok rises in popularity in Canada, there will undoubtedly be more Canadian physicians starting to use this platform soon.

From our quick search, we found Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physican at the William Osler Health System in Brampton, ON. He is the founder and lead physician for Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless (PEACH), Inner City Health Associates. With almost 5,000 followers, he’s using TikTok to raise awareness about homelessness and opioid addiction.


Pharmaceutical companies will most likely avoid the use of TikTok to promote their brands given the heavy regulation landscape governed by the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB).

However, TikTok may be a great platform for healthcare professionals and/or patient advocacy groups to promote disease awareness especially among the younger generation.

How about an awareness campaign about:

  • Different birth control options?
  • The importance of screening at an early age for certain cancers?
  • Eye health myths vs. facts?

The possibilities are endless as we continue to learn more about the platform and its user base expands to both young and old.

COVID-19 Update

Since this blog post was written, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to surge with exponential cases arising in North America. As mentioned and expected, TikTok has been be a great platform to promote disease awareness among the younger generation. Here’s a list of notable COVID-19-related posts from the doctors showcased above.

Dr. Rose Marie Leslie (or @DrLeslie) debunking myths about the coronavirus.


Dr. Austin Chiang (@AustinChiangMD), informing viewers about concerning gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea.


Dr. Naheed Dosani (@dr.naheedd) shares about his first COVID-19 Assessment shift and the number of patients he has seen that day.


Even the World Health Organization (@who) has joined to send a message to young people. With this post, that has had over 10.5 million views, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has sent a message to young people that they are not invincible


Social media has its pros and cons but it is absolutely inspiring to see its good use to spread disease awareness to those who need to learn and understand it the most during these uncertain times.

Stay safe and healthy everyone.

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