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article imageIs Wikipedia your one-stop destination for medical information?

By Sukhdeep Chhabra     May 24, 2009 in Health
Think twice next time when referring to Wikipedia blindly for your source on medical information. A study has found that 80 percent of adults in the U.S. use the Internet to look for health-related information.
While Wikipedia has undoubtedly revolutionized the concept for a knowledge base on the Internet, it is not the most accurate source of information on the web for everything. Its strength has also been its weakness, the immensely vast 10 million article, “user-edited online resource” is highly susceptible to errors, the prime reason being, bias. Of course, the fact that anyone can edit it, also leads to highly frequent updates and corrections but it should not be used as the main guide for some important medical decision or activity, reports Dr. Terry Gaff from fwdailynews.com.
An academic study published to help determine the reliability factor for Wikipedia in case of medicine, compared it with a free, online traditionally-edited database called Medscape Drug Reference (MDR). On the basis of scope, completeness, and accuracy of drug information, it was found that Wikipedia was able to answer about half of the drug information questions MDR answered and performed poorly regarding information on drug dosing. Answers found in Wikipedia were judged 76 percent complete, while MDR provided answers that were 95.5 percent complete.
However, Wikipedia lacked factual errors and showed improvement in articles submitted over time in that current entries were better to those submitted 90 days earlier.
While information in Wikipedia is quite comprehensive and definitely provides the reader a useful insight into what
he/she wants to research upon, it is suggested to use the articles as citations with caution as many articles are written anonymously and can be manipulated with personal bias; in this case: drug companies editing their own drug entries in Wikipedia to minimize associated safety issues, as they know that invariably, almost every user wanting to decide on a subject will take a look on the topic in Wikipedia, unarguably, one of the most popular destinations on the internet.
Dr. Gaff recommends nih.gov, cdc.gov, aafp.org and familydoctor.org as some of the medical websites he finds reliable.
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