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Dr Karan Rangarajan (MBBS 2014) – better known as Dr Karan Rajan – is an NHS surgeon, a lecturer at Sunderland University, an educator and a storyteller. He is undoubtedly TikTok’s favourite general surgeon and he has more than eight million followers online to prove it. His latest venture is as the author of a book This Book May Save Your Life: Everyday Health Hacks to Worry Less and Live Better, which is due to be published in January. It’s a hilarious, myth-busting survival guide that aims to demystify the human body and offers health hacks to help readers ‘worry less and live better’.

‘He is undoubtedly TikTok’s favourite general surgeon’

Karan qualified from Imperial College London in 2014 but has made his name as a social media sensation. His following rocketed during the COVID-19 lockdown, but his online activity began a lot earlier when he launched a YouTube channel as a medical student in 2012, guiding fellow students through practical exams.

Now, he posts hugely engaging videos about health, science and medicine on various platforms that, although comedic, come with a serious message. His watchword for his audience is always to consume with ‘caution’. Much of his social media work debunks the swathe of health tips and medical myths posted by pseudo-experts that litter the internet. Still, he also tells his thousands of followers, ‘Don’t believe everything you see or hear online and always do your own research – and I urge the same after watching my videos.’

He is wise to caveat his work with this advice. His irreverent approach to patient communication doesn’t always sit well with colleagues, and he has encountered a little criticism, often from within the medical profession itself. For some colleagues, social media is not a space for surgeons. Although he would argue that health-related content should only be created by those within the profession. And, rather than offer comprehensive explanations, his videos are merely intended as a touchpoint – an invitation for followers to explore topics he discusses and into which they can later investigate further. After all, nobody can impart years of medical science in 60 seconds of in-your-face video content.

‘Critical thinking is what he encourages from his audience’

Surgery International catches up with Karan as he zips between the OR, his university lectures and editing videos that slay those ‘pseudoscience social media posts that go viral far more quickly than factual, scientific information’. If they feed into that human desire for shortcuts and quick fixes, then so will he.

A couple of days prior to our conversation, Karan is featured in a reel on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Instagram, engaging in a discussion about the UK government’s initiative to establish a ‘smoke-free generation’. Endorsements, it seems, come from on high.

With headline-grabbing social media posts such as, ‘You started life as an asshole’ and ‘Have you ever seen your doctor Googling?’ among other nuggets of instantly shareable content, UK general surgeon Dr Karan Rajan is trailblazing digital engagement with patients.

‘He is one of the world’s leading health and science content creators’

His first foray into video-making began over a decade ago as a medical student in 2012. Inspired by excelling in science at school and hearing about his Mum’s experiences as a haematologist, the two sparked his interest in Medicine. His adeptness at practical, hands-on work led him to create educational YouTube videos during medical school, focusing on simulated procedures. There was a dearth of high-quality training material available back then and he plugged the gap.

Now, with a different audience, it is something he continues to do. Since 2020, he has been educating the masses with his irreverent, down-to-earth take on health. As a result, Karan has amassed an army of followers on the mainstream social media platforms, with TikTok delivering his greatest fanbase. In doing so he confronts those pseudo-scientific influencers who believe (for example) that sunning one’s perineum boosts energy levels.

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‘His TikTok reel pleading with viewers not to ‘harvest solar energy with your b*tthole’ is worth searching for’
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His quest? To make sound medical knowledge more accessible.

His podcast, which launched in May, continues this theme and The Referral… with Dr Karan is a ‘one-stop-shop demystifying the world of medicine and health’.

To date, he has clocked up 2.02 million subscribers on YouTube, 4,059 X/Twitter followers
and 956K on Instagram. On TikTok, his account dr.karanr has amassed 5.2 million followers – and the numbers continue to grow.

It’s a canny move. He can grab the attention of a much younger audience (for now, at least) and hit them early with his perfectly pitched delivery of evidence-based facts wrapped up in viral videos which contain profanity and profound truths in equal measure. Here, he counters the lies and, quite frankly, bizarre and sometimes dangerous health tips that litter the internet.

‘Far easier to contradict these inaccuracies with humour on a platform where they’re posted than in a dusty social media space where nobody under the age of 30 has ever existed’

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‘Far easier to contradict these inaccuracies with humour on a platform where they’re posted than in a dusty social media space where nobody under the age of 30 has ever existed’
‘‘

Debunking the many myths surrounding health, science and medicine, his delivery is fast and furious – and the snippets of information he offers involve genuine laugh-out-loud moments.

He edits 95% of the content he creates himself – ‘for the longer videos, I get someone external’. He is self-taught but has developed his skills over time. The rise of mobile editing apps has further extended his repertoire.

He uses earthy (some might suggest vulgar) language which (let’s face it) is basically very funny. The principles of healthcare are beautifully entwined with a large helping of dark humour to elicit attention. Karan provides patients with a more relatable and human connection, breaking down the barriers of medical jargon and fostering a sense of trust. His approach demystifies complex medical concepts to allow patients to better understand and engage with their own healthcare. This then promotes a more open and informed doctor-patient relationship.

His quickfire delivery appeals to a ‘scrolling’ and ‘swiping’ society, many of whom have too little time to digest vast chunks of detail. So, it is ideally suited for those sitting on the train during their daily commute, waiting in a GP waiting room or at home pondering complex health issues.

TikTok’s global reach also allows him to connect beyond his patient list. Its algorithm cleverly analyses user preferences and behaviour patterns to curate a personalised ‘For You’ feed, streamlining the process of engaging with patients. In today's fast-paced digital culture, where attention spans are short, Karan’s bite-sized content fits well.

But while his army of followers might appreciate his simplified takes on controversies and poorly considered tips, a handful of his professional colleagues are less comfortable with how Karan disseminates medical information.

‘As my career has developed and I have moved into positions of authority and responsibility, I have received some unwanted attention,’ he admits. ‘But the numbers are low.’

He believes this is based on a combination of fear of the unknown and a generation gap, with criticism often coming from surgeons rarely exposed to social media.

‘I guess what I do disturbs the natural status quo, and the profession remains resistant to change. Medicine is archaic, and surgery even more so – racism, sexism, gender bias, assault and misogyny continue to exist,’ he says.

The suggestion that it impacts his work as an NHS surgeon is a bit of a straw man argument – ‘It doesn’t make sense to conflate the two – my time is clearly demarcated, and I put together my videos in my own time. I also suspect there is a little schadenfreude. Intrinsically, we rarely celebrate success.’

On LinkedIn’s professional and business-focused social media platform, his posts are a little more refined, and he seizes opportunities to speak frankly to colleagues with clarity and passion, addressing serious shared issues of physician burnout and concerns about his social media presence.

Karan recalls: ‘The worst thing about being a doctor on social media is the trolling from those within your field. In the last three years, I’ve worked with the NHS, WHO, UN, British Red Cross, No 10 Downing Street, Royal College of Surgeons, Royal Society of Medicine and many more established institutions – I see this as an acknowledgement of good work, credibility and authenticity. But the problem I face – and the problem that many doctors who have a presence on social media face – isn’t from anonymous trolls but from other doctors who aren’t on social media who refuse to accept that this is a viable form of education and public health-centred communication. These same doctors, with their fixed ideologies that social media is “for kids” and who don’t see that it is the future of digital health, are also sadly the ones who are in positions of power. I’ve had a senior doctor in a high-level position tell me: “As a surgeon, you shouldn’t be on social media.” That was in 2020. Good thing I didn’t listen!

‘This backward thinking plagues medicine. It holds back change and progress. Will some doctors use social media for nefarious purposes? Sure. But does it have the power to transform healthcare on an epidemiological level and act as an adjunct to public health services? F*ck yes.’

He refers to the ‘crisis in trust’ between clinician and patient: ‘Misinformation is sexier than sanity and science. Public trust in medicine continues to erode, thanks partly to low levels of average health literacy and the rise of pseudoscientific wellness influencers who promote far-fetched naturopathic remedies. A step towards building trust in the public is having more doctors talk about simple facts online. Don’t leave a power vacuum for rogue wellness podcasters and celebrities!’

Besides the profession’s historic resistance to change, Karan also believes there is a need for broader policy reforms to address the issues within the UK’s healthcare system that are often beyond frontline medical care.

‘The institutional challenges are changing slowly, but I think there are many negatives beyond the scope of what the average clinician can do about funding, waiting lists, etc. The NHS has its contractual issues, and the profession continues to haemorrhage staff to other industries, as well as abroad.’

He has ambitions to be part of the decision-making process – and hopes that one day a government health secretary might hail from within the medical profession – a frontline NHS surgeon perhaps? One suspects we still have a long way to go. Still, Karan is undoubtedly considered a bit of a mover and shaker by people in high office – his chat with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, posted on the PM’s Instagram account, is a nod to Karan’s immense influence on a younger patient base.

The media recognise his appeal, too. He has been featured on BBC Morning Live, Good Morning Britain, BBC News, Sky News and national radio, with coverage in the Guardian, Independent, Washington Post, New York Post, Metro, Sun, LADBible and the Daily Mail, and several other international online news outlets. He was co-presenter on BBC Two’s six-part series Your Body Uncovered. Over the past few years, he has been a regular health promotion advocate on behalf of the NHS, working closely with the UN, the World Health Organisation and the British Red Cross in an ambassadorial capacity.

Those outlets that give him a platform evidently appreciate his refreshingly frank approach. Entertainment is a powerful vehicle for mass messaging.

Aside from all this social media activity, Karan is a senior clinical lecturer at the University of Sunderland Medical School and formerly at Imperial College London – presumably bringing the same passion for education, health and science to his lectures. He has delivered keynote speeches and talks at Oxford University, Imperial College London, Birmingham University, Uber, Peloton, TikTok and General Electric, to name but a few.

More recently, he has written a book. This Book May Save Your Life is due to be published just after Christmas (the Kindle edition is already available) and promises to build on those social media posts with a ‘rollicking journey through the intricacies of the human body’.

For Karan, it’s his ‘magnum opus’. He mentions that he is off to the printers to see the hardback version of the book roll off the presses, and his enthusiasm to see his creation come to life is clear.

‘The writing journey started two years ago with lots of weekends, my days off, post- and pre-night shift hours dedicated to writing and planning my book,’ he says. ‘It wasn’t even juggling work as a surgeon, taking care of the beast (my dog Shadow), making social media videos AND just the small matter of writing a book… this has been the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken. My magnum opus so far.’

The book’s PR best sums it up: ‘The hilarious, myth-busting survival guide to the human body from TikTok’s favourite general surgeon. Though the odds are stacked against us, the human body has an extraordinary tendency to survive. Here, Dr Karan Rajan explains the weird and wonderful bodily functions that keep us going and offers practical advice to help you thrive. Full of everyday health hacks to worry less and live better, This Book May Save Your Life will teach you: The dangers of plucking your nose hair, how embracing your inner dolphin can help manage stress, the simple mind tricks for dealing with pain and why you should never hold in a fart.’

As the popularity of medical content on social media continues to grow, content creators and viewers must exercise caution and seek reliable, comprehensive sources of medical information when making health-related decisions. Karan is making this possible.

‘Ridiculing so-called wellness experts who hail the holistic benefits of perineum sunning goes beyond an earthy butt joke’

Ultimately, the medical profession needs patients to be well-informed and have an evidence-based understanding of medicine to ensure the best possible patient outcomes.

‘My posts have reached many people who wouldn’t have otherwise read up on certain health news. Social media allows them to consume information accidentally. A follower messaged me recently to say that they had shown a neighbour my post about bowel cancer screening. This neighbour was afraid of healthcare practitioners, but after seeing my video, they went to their GP, who referred them to a specialist. The neighbour had a colonoscopy, and pre-cancerous growth was found, so social media can save lives.’

If people are more likely to engage with posts on TikTok than read a patient information leaflet, then Karan is more than happy to play the game.

‘Social media is part of most people’s “everyday” and has become the new Google, the new news source, the new place for information. It is how people communicate with friends, and it has integrated into ‘real’ life. There’s no escape; as a profession, we should embrace it and use it to educate. It is impossible to eliminate all misinformation from the internet – and if social media is to remain democratic, there should be minimal censorship. But by contradicting the poorly considered posts, platforms like TikTok can be policed by its users.’

Has he ever considered a social media detox? He’s unequivocal. He hugely enjoys the space, so no, but he does have a life outside the virtual world. He lives in the south of England with his dog, Shadow, a mastiff and finds solace in his companionship – and the gym (when he can get there) and good food.

In a world of high patient turnover, huge expectations, regulatory demands and physician burnout, surgeons rarely get opportunities to debunk myths or have face-offs with health-related conspiracy theorists. Karan is doing the whole profession a favour because as long as he is making it his business to wade through the murky, muddy information highway to offer clarity to misinformed patients, those who take a more perfunctory approach to social media activity simply don’t have to.

To order your copy of the book, click here

In the fast-evolving realm of contemporary healthcare, surgical techniques have attained unprecedented levels of advancement, leading to substantial enhancements in patient care.

However, the journey towards complete recovery extends far beyond the operating room, emphasising the importance of effective postoperative care.

In this critical phase, patient partnerships play a pivotal role, ensuring a holistic and personalised approach to recovery.

Dr. Faizal Rayan
The Crucial Role Of Patient Partnerships

Patient partnerships represent a transformative shift in healthcare dynamics. The collaboration between medical professionals and patients is founded on empowerment through education, enhanced adherence to care plans, personalised recovery strategies, early recognition of complications and emotional support.

Understanding the procedure, recovery trajectory and potential complications empowers patients to participate actively in their healing journey.

This collaboration builds mutual trust, leading to better adherence to prescribed regimens and improved outcomes. This trust is critical for maintaining access to healthcare services globally. Patients outnumber clinicians, and capacity within hospital providers can never fully match unfettered patient demand.

This demand is primarily managed through carefully aligning preventative care within hospital care. Addressing issues outside hospitals and in the community is just as important as care within hospitals.

Personalised recovery plans tailored to individual needs and early recognition of potential complications contribute to a more effective and efficient recovery process.

In this context, initiatives like Post Op have emerged as transformative tools bridging the gap between healthcare providers and patients during the postoperative phase. Patient engagement means patient-led communications rather than clinician-initiated care, as is the norm today.

The healthcare start-up was founded by Chindu Kabir, Faizal Rayan, an orthopaedic surgeon passionate about patient-centred care, and leading design guru Pier Bardoni.

This innovative platform leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance communication and engagement between healthcare providers and patients during the crucial postoperative phase.

The platform’s multifaceted approach empowers patients and standardises care globally.

Its aim is to revolutionise the postoperative experience by leveraging technology to enhance patient-initiated communication, understanding and engagement between doctors and patients.

Chindu’s journey into the realm of patient-focused healthcare began with personal experiences and observations during his medical career. His early exposure to healthcare in India and experiences in Kuwait and the UK shaped his perspective on the importance of patient experience in the recovery journey.

During his training in elite hospital systems in Chennai, India, and the UK, Faizal has long been a proponent of value-based care.

Pier Bardoni teamed up with both surgeons to provide a world-class user experience honed through his own expertise. He is a hugely respected designer who is featured in Forbes magazine as being on the vanguard of user experience design in Europe.

Bridging the communication gap - Post Op is a vital bridge between doctors and patients, facilitating postoperative care through personalised guidance and support.

The platform enhances communication by providing a direct channel for doctors to share tailored post-operative instructions, recovery plans and educational materials with their patients. It also encourages patient-initiated communication in the crucial first 30 days after surgery, as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

This fosters clarity, ensuring patients have comprehensive guidance to follow. The platform empowers patients with knowledge about their procedures, potential complications and step-by-step recovery guidance.

This knowledge actively involves patients in their recovery journey, improving adherence to post-operative protocols and contributing to better outcomes.

Chindu explains: ‘We’re redefining surgical care, giving patients the ultimate recovery experience. Clinical teams have greater insights through AI-empowered communication.

‘Surgical follow-up care is seldom standardised – sometimes even for the same procedure. If we can focus on patient follow-up in the immediate post-operative period, we can drive up satisfaction rates and genuinely reduce complications and surgical site infections. Our patient-facing interactive platform is designed to avoid unnecessary admissions and emergency department attendance.’

The key features of Post Op are manifold. They include:

The founder’s vision for Post Op aligns with a patient-centric approach, where patients are recognised as equal partners in their recovery journey.

The platform addresses the challenges of the postoperative phase and contributes to rebuilding trust between patients and healthcare providers.

It has been successfully rolled out to the NHS in the UK, with plans for global expansion. Focused on the top five surgical specialties, the platform aims to standardise postoperative care globally, emphasising the importance of follow-up in the first 30 days after surgery.

The founders acknowledge the challenges in standardising healthcare globally and emphasises the need for a predictive and proactive approach.

Post Op’s focus on patient experience and engagement aligns intending to create a fair and patient-centred healthcare system.

The platform leverages artificial intelligence to enhance postoperative care and communication between healthcare providers and patients.

However, the Post Op team recognises the need for continuous improvement, addressing biases in AI models, and adapting to different healthcare settings and technological infrastructures.

Post Op places a strong emphasis on data security and privacy. The platform ensures the highest patient information protection standards when operating in highly regulated environments, such as the UK’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and NHS compliance.

Looking ahead, Post Op is fully supportive of the continued evolution of AI-driven platforms and their safe implementation in existing healthcare pathways.

The CEO, Chindu Kabir, explained: ‘There is a need to focus on the patient’s perception and experience and challenge the current metrics and paradigms in healthcare. The platform’s success lies in its ability to adapt, learn from patient behaviour and collaborate with healthcare professionals to drive innovation.’

In the ever-evolving healthcare landscape, patient partnerships and innovative platforms like Post Op are crucial in shaping the future of postoperative care.

The ability to leverage technology for effective communication underscores the potential for a more collaborative, empowering and patient-centric healthcare system globally.

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