Social media platform Reddit presents a little-used but high-yield opportunity for radiologists to engage with patients and peers, according to a new study published Tuesday.
Several recent analyses have explored different social media platforms’ roles in imaging, including TikTok, WhatsApp, and Facebook Live. But radiology researchers have largely left Reddit—one of America’s most popular such sites, with 330 million active monthly users—untouched, experts noted in Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology.
Wanting to close this knowledge gap, NYU Langone Health radiologists pored over popular posts from the last nine years looking for insights. They found a lively forum for imaging education, consultation and humor, and plenty of untapped potential from the profession.
“Radiologists represent a small, although impactful, portion of this community and should embrace Reddit as an avenue for engagement,” musculoskeletal imaging fellow Kamran Munawar, MD, and assistant professor Vinay Prabhu, MD, both with the New York City institution’s Department of Radiology, wrote Feb. 9. “This relative paucity of engagement identifies an opportunity for high-yield contribution by radiologists to contribute, as physicians in our study garnered significantly more [popularity] points and comments than half of the other user groups,” they added later.
For those unfamiliar, Reddit is a content aggregator website that allows users to share images, videos, links, and text. Users can up- or down-vote content and also comment on posts in what resembles a message board or chatroom.
To better understand the radiology profession’s use of the site, Prabhu and Munawar targeted two popular “subreddit” pages: r/radiology and r/medicine. For the latter more general page, they queried imaging-related terms such as radiology, x-ray, CT scan, MRI, ultrasound, PET scan, and mammogram. They further determined the purposes of posts, categorized them, and sorted out the different users contributing on these pages.
All told, the two authors located 323 radiology posts submitted by 258 unique users during the nine-year period that ended in January 2020. Each post had a median of 21 comments (ranging as high as 568) and 119 popularity points (with the most popular hitting 1,877). Physicians were the most common radiology posters in these forums at 41%, followed by radiologic technologists (18%) and medical students (12%). And radiologists represented about 30% of those physicians and 12% of the total users.
Investigators found that physicians had much higher median comments and points than half of other user categories. Popular topics included imaging case presentations (25%), humor, including memes and other jokes (18%), and imaging appropriateness (10%). Broken down by subspecialty, musculoskeletal imaging led the way at 26%, followed by neurologic (22%), abdominal (21%), and cardiothoracic care (20%). Meanwhile, wellness and burnout represented a small portion of the posts but had significantly higher number of comments and popularity points, the authors noted.
Some of the consultations, in particular, included questions from patients along with crosstalk between different specialties, seeking advice on imaging appropriateness. The authors believe this could present one fruitful avenue for physicians to beef up their use of the platform.
“These are topics that require high-level knowledge of imaging guidelines and would benefit greatly from participation by radiologists,” the authors advised. “Reddit may be another unique, underutilized venue for case presentation as an educational medium,” they added later. “The ability to share images and videos and concurrently interact with the Reddit user base through comments caters perfectly to radiology, an image-rich, and discussion-filled specialty.”