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Patients and HCPs turn first to Wikipedia

The online encyclopedia is now the leading source of medical information

Wikipedia logoWikipedia has been on the radar of some in the industry for a while, but the online encyclopedia is growing up and it's time the pharmaceutical industry started paying more attention to it.

There should be new urgency about this after recent research showed the website is now the single leading source of medical information for patients and healthcare professionals.

That's according to the IMS Institute's Engaging Patients through Social Media report. The analysts also assessed 50 major disease-specific Wikipedia articles and found a strong correlation between page views and medicine use.

When it came to rarer diseases, for which there is often less information available, their Wikipedia pages showed a higher frequency of visits than those for many more common diseases.

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

Top 10 Wikipedia articles viewed in the last 12 months

Wikipedia pageVisits in millions
2Crohn's Disease4.1
4Multiple Sclerosis3.8
5Diabetes Mellitus3.4
8Down's Syndrome3.1
9Parkinson's Disease3.0
Source: The use of Wikipedia in healthcare (2014) by IMS

Medical information accuracy and Wikipedia

The popularity of Wikipedia is not in dispute. It has grown over the last 13 years into the internet's sixth most popular website, attracting more than 500 million unique visitors each month, and is consistently ranked very highly by search engines.

But the reliability of the information on Wikipedia is still often criticised, despite several studies finding it to have similar standards to many professional - and even peer-reviewed - sources. The best source for this is, of course, Wikipedia itself, whose Reliability of Wikipedia page points to studies on the subject published in Nature, Psychological Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Nevertheless, there's still more work to be done. Wikipedia itself acknowledges this and other stakeholders are turning their attention to the site. In January Cancer Research UK took the decision to recruit its own 'Wikipedian in Residence' - a new in-house role funded by the Wellcome Trust and supported by Wikimedia UK.

Then there was another interesting development last month when the Cochrane Collaboration announced a partnership designed to improve the reliability and accessibility of Wikipedia medical information online.The not-for-profit, evidence-based medicine body will work with Wikiproject Medicine, a space within Wikipedia for those interested in the site's medical and health content, to share expertise and work with Wikipedia editors.

Dr James Heilman, from the Wikiproject Medicine Foundation board of directors, said: “Much of Wikipedia can still use improvement and we know that with the support of research evidence experts, our goal to create easy-to-read, thoroughly referenced articles can be more easily reached and maintained.”

You could of course still ignore Wikipedia but you can't deny that it's now a central part of the healthcare landscape.

7th March 2014

From: Healthcare



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