Healthcare News & Insights

Study: 50% of physicians use Wikipedia for health info

Your physicians may not be diagnosing patients using only their years of schooling or experience. In fact, guess what the single leading source of medical information is for U.S. patients and healthcare professionals? 

86506015According to a recent report, it’s the website Wikipedia.

If this scares you a bit, this may ease your mind: While anyone can edit Wikipedia entries, many doctors are making changes to entries based on their medical knowledge, which actually boosts the site’s accuracy … a bit.

Popular source for health info

IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a medial technology company, analyzed data from more than 100,000 suppliers and 45 billion healthcare transactions each year. What it found was Wikipedia is the single leading source of medical information for patients and healthcare professionals.

In fact, 50% of physicians said they’ve consulted the community-edited, online encyclopedia for information on health conditions, reported CBS Connecticut. And serious and uncommon illnesses are among the most frequently searched topics by English-language users.

While Wikipedia has had some issues with accuracy — the online encyclopedia doesn’t do credential check for its more than 71,000 active editors — the IMS report revealed people trust Wikipedia for a wide-range of information about their personal health and medicine. It has more than 30 million articles in 287 languages.

Top health-related articles

In 2013, the top health-related Wikipedia articles were:

  • uberculosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • pneumonia, and
  • multiple sclerosis.

Each topic had about 4 million page views.

On average, the top 100 English Wikipedia pages for healthcare topics were accessed 1.9 million times over the course of the past year. 

“Increasingly, patients are turning to social media as an essential forum for obtaining and sharing information related to their health,” Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, wrote in the report.

Physicians play vital role

Even medical schools are seeing the vital role physicians have in putting accurate information on Wikipedia. A report in Quartz revealed that a University of California, San Francisco Medical School professor has a class for fourth-year medical students dedicated solely to the editing and posting of healthcare-related Wikipedia pages.

Why? Because Wikipedia is ranked sixth in the U.S. for heaviest web traffic. And according to Alexa, a web traffic tracker, the U.S. accounts for over 20 percent of Wikipedia’s annual visitors.

“This trend only heightens the need for relevant, accurate content that can be accessed and used throughout the patient journey. Healthcare professionals, regulators and pharmaceutical manufacturers all need to overcome their reticence and acknowledge the vital role that they can and should play as participants in the healthcare conversation.”

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