Israeli doctors, hospitals have discovered TikTok

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, more and more doctors have taken to TikTok to offer viewers a glimpse into what really happens in hospitals.

 PLASTIC SURGEON Eitam Weiss: Quite the sensation. (photo credit: TIKTOK)
PLASTIC SURGEON Eitam Weiss: Quite the sensation.
(photo credit: TIKTOK)

TikTok may not be a particularly new social media format, but use of it is becoming more widespread among a wider range of people. Much has been written about politicians and teachers who use this channel as a way to disseminate content, and now it appears that TikTok has become a favorite medium among doctors and other medical staff, too. 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, more and more doctors have taken to TikTok to offer viewers a glimpse into what really happens in the operating room and during other medical treatments. Many doctors, surgeons, dentists and nurses have amassed large numbers of followers and a few hospitals have even opened their own channels in an effort to attract attention.

“We were the first hospital in Israel to open up its own TikTok channel.”

Naama Frank-Azriel

“We were the first hospital in Israel to open up its own TikTok channel,” boasts Naama Frank-Azriel, social media manager at Sheba Medical Center Tel Hashomer. “We created our channel just after the COVID-19 epidemic began and since then, many other Israeli hospitals have realized what a great medium it is and have opened their own channels. 

Because TikTok prohibits businesses from using commercial music in their videos, I began brainstorming ideas for what kind of content we should post. In the end, I came up with a plan in which we would post videos of a variety of different situations that take place in the daily lives of nurses and doctors, and it’s really taken off.”

The Sheba.Medical TikTok channel has over 12,000 followers and the number of views that the hospital’s videos garner ranges from 20,000 to 200,000. “I personally select which hospital staff members to film for Sheba’s TikTok channel because not everyone is a good fit. Everyone who has starred in our videos has had a great time,” Frank-Azriel adds with a smile. “You don’t need any special talent for singing or dancing. In our videos, our medical staff members explain in a professional manner what to do, for example, if you get bitten by a snake or how we cultivate human skin, which we posted about on our site following the recuperation of Itzik Saidyan, who had set himself on fire to protest alleged neglect by authorities.”

 ‘DR. TIKTOK’: Reut Mordechay, Ichilov Hospital ER. (credit: TIKTOK) ‘DR. TIKTOK’: Reut Mordechay, Ichilov Hospital ER. (credit: TIKTOK)

Frank-Azriel uploads at least one TikTok video each week. One of the clips she recently uploaded to Sheba’s site was a video of Dudi Halili, an orthopedic plaster technician, who demonstrated how he molds a cast. “I’ve been working here at Sheba for 12 years, and up until Naama approached me, asking if I’d be willing to star in a TikTok video for the hospital, I’d never even heard of the platform,” admits Halili. “When Naama showed me other videos and explained what she wanted me to do, I was a bit skeptical. I thought to myself, who in the world would be interested in watching a video of me explaining how to make a cast? 

“But I give Naama full credit for the success of the video, following which I received lots of positive feedback from colleagues here at work, as well as from friends. In fact, I was completely taken aback recently when a patient I was tending to interrupted my explanation of what I was about to do, saying, ‘Yeah, I know already – I saw your TikTok video.’ I was gobsmacked. These videos really help people understand what to expect of specific treatments, which calms them down tremendously. 

“So, in that respect, the videos are really having a positive effect. There is so much uncertainty surrounding medical issues, and people are understandably worried about treatments they are scheduled to undergo. Seeing a video beforehand reduces people’s stress levels and provides them with a tremendous amount of information.”

Dr. Reut Mordechay, who works in the Emergency Room at Ichilov Hospital, calls herself “Dr. TikTok.” Her TikTok account, dr.reutmordechay, has 20,000 followers and the videos she makes in the ER get tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of views. “I got the idea to do this from watching cool videos I saw on Instagram of medical teams in hospitals all around the world,” recalls Mordechay. “I thought to myself, hey, we could do this too, and I bet it would really improve morale among my fellow colleagues. 

“We had so much fun making the videos and we received such fantastic feedback, so we just continued making more of them. We did a clip of our ER team dancing, and it really created quite a buzz. Then, at some point, I started getting questions from med students and others who were dreaming about getting accepted to med school, and I realized the potential we had here to provide serious content. I began uploading videos of simulations of situations that commonly arise in the ER, and I got so many positive comments from people saying that they were incredibly helpful and that we should continue making more.”

How often do you post new videos?

“So, because I don’t have much free time, I post videos whenever I get a chance. Sometimes, I’ll post all the time and other times when the ER is inundated, I don’t get around to it very often.”

What kind of reactions have you seen from colleagues and patients?

“Fellow doctors are really encouraging, but it’s the reactions from patients that really amaze me. For example, recently an older woman came into the ER with her dad, and she came up and gave me a big hug. She told me that she recognized me from my videos and immediately felt so much more relaxed knowing that I’d be the one taking care of her father. Arriving at the ER is incredibly stressful, so I’m glad there’s something we can do to lower stress levels. And, of course, I took it as a huge compliment.”

Dr. Eitam Weiss, a plastic surgeon, has become quite a sensation on TikTok. His videos of procedures, including nose jobs, liposuction and silicone breast implants, get hundreds of thousands of views. He offers explanations and also clarifies all the steps of these procedures for viewers.

“TikTok is a fantastic platform – it’s not just for kids, as many people think,” explains Weiss. “Granted, there are limitations, since I need written consent from my patients to upload any content in which they appear. In the past, I’ve given interviews to various media, but this type of exposure is pretty limited, since these days people don’t have the patience to read newspaper articles. People want everything here and now, and then within seconds they’ve moved on to the next item. That’s why TikTok videos are perfect – they’re short and to the point.”

What do you talk about in your videos?

“I show before and after examples of plastic surgery procedures and explain how each device works, such as a liposuction machine. I add a little background music and colorful effects. It’s all part of the game.”

When did you realize that TikTok was going to be a great tool for your business?

“At first, I opened an Instagram account, which I continued using even after I began posting videos on TikTok. But I saw that the TikTok videos were attracting far bigger numbers of followers, and in addition, I received lots of comments and questions from viewers. People assume that there are specific tricks that help a video become viral, but it’s not an exact science.”

What kind of reactions do you get from patients?

“They absolutely love the videos! In fact, many of my patients ask if they can take a selfie with me when they come into the clinic. On the one hand, I love it, but on the other hand, my work is professional and that’s the image I am aiming for. 

“I’m very thoughtful when deciding which procedures to film and I never post silly videos. I’ve seen videos of plastic surgeons juggling silicone implants, for example – I would never film something in such bad taste. I’ve definitely had more business as a result of my TikTok videos. I spend about 1.5 hours a week on my videos. Many of my patients tell me they already know a lot of the surgery details since they saw me explain them in my videos.

Interestingly enough, most of the videos that have gone viral on TikTok were posted by dentists. Dr. Zachi Rainer, who has a dental practice in Kiryat Motzkin, started using TikTok two years ago, but he didn’t think it was going to attract many new patients. “I began posting videos, but nothing very professional,” recalls Rainer, who now has 24,600 followers. “Then recently, I decided to hire someone who specializes in making TikTok videos for businesses and she guided me in how to create videos that would bring in new clients. Currently, my clips get between 600,000 to a million views a week. I also post videos with patients who are well-known, such as Yarden Edri, Fanny Buzaglo and The Shadow, but this is not what makes the videos go viral, since the algorithms are based on content.”

Rainer acknowledges that he spends about an hour a day filming and editing his TikTok videos. “At first, I thought TikTok was just for kids, and that was the audience I had in mind when I started making videos. But after a while, I realized that thousands of adults were commenting on the videos, asking me professional questions to which I, of course, responded. My videos began going viral and my income went up by NIS 100,000 from exposure on TikTok. In the past, almost all of my patients were from my town, but now people come to me for dental treatments from all over Israel. I have between 50-70 new patients a month now because of TikTok. It’s crazy!”

What does your staff think about your newfound fame?

“They all love it. It’s really brought everyone together and boosted morale. I’ve also become kind of famous, and sometimes people recognize me when I’m out and about. Some people in the Kryot area where I live recognize me from Instagram, but my TikTok followers are from all over the country. I see more and more doctors, clinics and hospitals are creating TikTok accounts, since they realize the potential. It’s no longer a place for 16-year-old girls to post videos of themselves dancing. It’s a platform for serious content.”

In her dental practice, Dr. Stella Heisler specializes in aesthetic surgery, urgent care and dental anxiety. Her TikTok account has 27,600 followers, and in her videos, she demonstrates each stage of the treatments she provides for patients with gum disease. “At first, I was not very good at making TikTok videos and I had a difficult time, so my videos didn’t attract much attention,” Heisler explains. “So, I decided to learn how to make better videos, and now, for example, my explanations about root canals can reach 200,000 views. 

“I realized that people are eager for thorough and graphic details and actual demonstrations. Recently, I recorded a surgery in which I removed a patient’s wisdom teeth, with me explaining everything about the process along the way. This video, which was only 60 seconds long, was viewed over a million times. I absolutely love this platform, because I don’t need to be serious 100% of them time, and I can add in a little humor here and there, which is a great fit with my personality. I try to upload a new video every day or two.”

How have other dentists you know reacted?

“Well, to tell you the truth, most of them have not been overly enthusiastic. But I think that’s only because they are not on TikTok, so they don’t get it. A few of my colleagues who are on TikTok think my new-found fame is fantastic. My patients and friends have expressed lots of support and that’s been really nice. I very rarely receive negative comments and, in general, I love making the videos.”

How have the TikTok videos affected your bottom line?

“Very positively. I now have patients who come to me from all over Israel, and not just from Jerusalem. I posted a video of how I close gaps between teeth, which led to over 100 people calling me with questions. Of course, only a few of them ended up coming for treatment, but that’s still something. And I have TikTok to thank for that. I think many more doctors should take advantage of this great platform.” 

Translated by Hannah Hochner.