Wikis yes, even if Wikipedia no

Kevin Pho isn’t happy to see so many people turn to Wikipedia for medical information. In the USA Today (Wikipedia isn’t really the patient’s friend) he writes of his dismay at patients using Wikipedia, which he considers unreliable and subject to manipulation. But he’s even more concerned about physician usage:

Even more troubling is that doctors, too, appear to be increasingly reliant on Wikipedia. According to a survey of 1,900 physicians by Manhattan Research, a health care market research firm, nearly half of doctors going online for professional purposes reported using Wikipedia as a source of medical information. That number has doubled in the past year alone…

And as for physicians, there’s no excuse turning to Wikipedia as a source when reputable medical resources are a few more keystrokes away. Although these other sites might require more time for a busy clinician, doctors need to eschew convenience to ensure their decisions are based on sound medical information.

It’s hardly surprising to see patients turning to Wikipedia. It’s often among the top entries to appear on a Google search for many topic areas (whether medical or not), and so the average web surfer has learned to rely on the resource. It’s not always easy for patients to find objective medical information online, and Wikipedia entries are well organized, up to date and often very good. The wisdom of crowds has real advantages.

Kevin concedes that Wikipedia is easier to use than “reputable medical resources” for physicians. Well, then obviously such resources have to figure out how to become as convenient as Wikipedia or prove their worth to doctors. In addition, there is something to be said for the collaborative, online wiki model, which brings together a variety of contributors and can be moderated effectively by experts.

Maybe Wikipedia isn’t the best place for physicians to turn, but that doesn’t mean physicians should avoid wikis in general.

July 15, 2009

2 thoughts on “Wikis yes, even if Wikipedia no”

  1. Since wikipedia has spawned I have seen a tremendous amount of people really trying to sue this as a research tool. Who verifies the information is correct?

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