Blog | Wednesday, May 28, 2014

QD: News Every Day--Wikipedia may not be a reliable resource for medical conditions

Wikipedia articles for 9 of the 10 most costly medical conditions in the United States contained many errors when checked against standard peer-reviewed sources, a study found.

Physicians and medical students have been using social media and web-based resources as part of the care they deliver, leaving some experts “frightened.”

Researchers compared Wikipedia articles on the 10 most costly medical conditions with standard, evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources. Reviews were conducted by either an internal medicine resident or a rotating intern physician.

Results appeared in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

The Wikipedia articles that contained assertions inconsistent with peer-reviewed sources included those on coronary artery disease, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, back pain, and hyperlipidemia. The Wiki page for trauma-related disorders such as concussions was deemed OK.

An editorial by a medical librarian pointed out that there may be reasons why physicians choose Wikipedia over other more properly vetted resources. Subscription costs, convenience, popularity, ease of use, or a lack of information literacy skills might all play a role.

“Wikipedia has a place in literature searching, but it is best used as a starting point rather than an ending point,” the editorial states. “Wikipedia is attempting to upgrade its health content by offering a voluntary peer-review process. If physicians can make a commitment to edit Wikipedia content, then Wikipedia might have a chance at becoming a more reliable, peer-edited clinical decision tool.”