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Press Release

Caution Prescribed When Researching Medical Conditions on Wikipedia

Study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association Finds Wikipedia Articles Contradict Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature

PR Newswire

CHICAGO, May 2, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It might be convenient to research medical conditions online but a study in the May issue of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA) found nine out of 10 public-edited Wikipedia articles on common medical conditions contained factual errors when compared to peer-reviewed resources.

Authors of the study, "Wikipedia vs. Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions," identified the 10 costliest medical conditions in the United States, like heart disease and diabetes, and the 10 Wikipedia articles most closely related to each of these conditions. After tracking each medical fact in the Wikipedia articles, they then compared those facts to peer-reviewed medical literature to determine whether the assertions made in Wikipedia were supported by evidence.

"While Wikipedia is a convenient tool for conducting research, from a public health standpoint patients should not use it as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals," explains lead author Robert T. Hasty, DO, regional associate dean at the Campbell University Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine in Buies Creek, N.C. "The best resource when looking for a diagnosis is to speak with your physician, who can take into account your medical history and other factors to determine the best course of treatment." 

Dr. Hasty, who also serves as vice president of medical education at Southeastern Health in North Carolina, encourages physicians to engage in Wikipedia articles in their areas of expertise and become familiar with Wikipedia's editing guidelines. He also shares what patients can take away from the study's findings:

What Patients Need to Know

  • If you think you are sick, consult with your physician who is in the best position to diagnose your condition and work with you on a course of treatment.
  • When researching medical topics pull information from a number of resources to get multiple perspectives.
  • Look for websites that have medical advisory boards and/or peer-reviewed content, as well as sites from public health authorities like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Since Wikipedia articles are public-edited, the information might not be as reliable or accurate as other online resources.
  • Be sure to consult with your physician about any prescription or over the counter medications or other medical treatments that come up during an online search.

To learn more about the JAOA study, check out this video with Dr. Hasty.

Read this news release at

What is a DO?
DOs are licensed physicians who can prescribe medication and practice in all specialty areas, including surgery, in the United States. They complete four years of medical school followed by graduate medical education through internship and residency programs typically lasting three to eight years. In addition, DOs receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system, providing them with an in-depth knowledge of the ways that illness or injury in one part of the body can affect another. As one of the fastest-growing segments of health care professionals in the nation, the number of DOs has grown more than 200% during the past 25 years.

About The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association is a monthly peer-reviewed scientific publication produced by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The AOA represents more than 104,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at

SOURCE The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association

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