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Is Wikipedia good for medicine?




The 'Wikipedia' logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris.
The 'Wikipedia' logo is seen on a tablet screen on December 4, 2012 in Paris.
LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

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The internet is no stranger to medicine -- a study from Pew says that 72 percent of people use online resources to look up medical conditions. Sites like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic allow users to self-diagnose and research illnesses, and many turn to Wikipedia to read up on medical issues.

A bit more surprising is the revelation that doctors use Wikipedia just as avidly as their patients. Medical studies frequently cite Wikipedia as a source, and several studies have shown how accurate and appropriate Wikipedia is in various fields. But is the information accurate?

It depends on the condition, but new research published this March in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association indicates that Wikipedia has a ways to go before it catches up to peer reviewed journals.

Many medical professionals argue that the solution to this problem isn’t to stop using Wikipedia and crowdsourced medicine, but to fix it. Wikiproject Medicine aims to attract doctors and medical professionals to edit and elaborate on current Wikipedia medical articles.

Some of the doctors already editing Wikipedia say that it’s part of a doctor’s ethical responsibility to reach out to people online to assure that they aren’t being misinformed.

Should doctors use Wikipedia in their research or practice? How can the medical field help improve existing online resources? Will Wikipedia ever be a credible source of medical knowledge?

 

Guest:  

Dr. Amin Azzam, associate clinical professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UCSF