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" The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery. "
- ♥ - Anais Nin - ♥ -

Do You Trust Doc Wikipedia?

Did you know that anyone can contribute to Wikipedia? Absolutely anybody can write an article in Wikipedia from scratch and/or edit a Wikipedia article. There are only three pre-requisites to do so:-

For example, you are not required to have any medical knowledge if you wish to contribute to a medical Wikipedia article (However, after having stated this, most articles are currently written by medical or paramedical people, but the point here is, there is no pre-requisite for medical knowledge.)

Now that you know this, would you trust a doctor who goes online to find an answer via Wikipedia? Would you place greater trust in a doctor who finds an answer via Google?

As a physician, this topic fascinates me.

Recent Spanish research has found that 80% of junior physicians use Google and 70% use Wikipedia to seek medical information. This research was conducted in a population of 35 young doctors who performed 444 internet search visits over 177 days.

For many within the medical fraternity, especially amongst the more senior physicians, this is a concern because of the risk of poor quality information in articles at these non-peer-reviewed sites.

If this is mildly concerning to you, you may be interested that medical students also use Google and Wikipedia a lot. These people are not yet physicians. They represent the future of our medical care. They are likely to have another 40-50 years of medical practice ahead of them, and will be the ones who will be caring for us when we are old and gray.

I suspect, sources such as Google and Wikipedia are favored by junior doctors and medical students because they are readily available, and are much more readable than medical or scientific abstracts available on Pubmed, Medline Search, Ovid and equivalents.

Here is a light-hearted video which, surprisingly, accurately summarizes how 'too many cooks (or in the case of Wikipedia, too many writers & editors) can spoil the soup'.

Next time you see your doctor, ask him/her if he/she uses Wikipedia or Google to research medical knowledge online. The more we do this, the more likely we are to cast doubt upon non-peer-reviewed sources of medical knowledge. It would be good for doctors to know that the public is *also* discerning about the quality of e-knowledge. It would be wonderful if, one day, a peer-reviewed Wikipedia or Google equivalent were made available to the more junior medical crew. Alternatively, a more readable version of Pubmed would also be good.

What do you think? Do you trust Dr Wikipedia? Or Professor Google?

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