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Doctor Wikipedia is top medical resource for patients and doctors

Report: Wikipedia is now the leading global resource for healthcare information, not just for patients, but doctors as well.

(Credit: Beak Doctor image by Paul Fuerst, public domain; Wikipedia)

Report: Wikipedia is now the leading global resource for healthcare information, not just for patients, but doctors as well.

We've all been there: perturbed by a lingering headache or ongoing twinge, it's pretty common for someone to turn first to Doctor Google to try and figure out what it is without having to leave the comfort of our couches (and then be alarmed by the number of serious conditions that fit the symptoms according to WebMD.)

The top 25 most-viewed health-related Wikipedia pages.(Credit: IMS Health)

In fact, turning to the internet for health information is so common that Wikipedia is now the number one resource for both patients and doctors, according to a report on online and social media engagement by IMS Health.

According to the report, which surveyed both Wikipedia statistics and doctor behaviour, nearly 50 per cent of US doctors who use the internet for professional purposes will use Wikipedia for information.

Patients, on the other hand, use Wikipedia as a starting point for information when they first receive a diagnosis. Therefore, less common conditions were the most frequently accessed. The top 100 health articles on Wikipedia were viewed an average of 1.9 million times in the 12-month period IMS Health analysed, with tuberculosis topping the list at 4.2 million visits.

This frequency is attributed to the fact that Wikipedia has rapidly become a highly trusted source of information since its launch in 2001, with results frequently appearing at the top of Google search results. Although Wikipedia content is created by users, which can lead to inaccurate information at times, the community is usually pretty good at monitoring and removing spurious claims.

The report also found a strong correlation between accessing information on the internet and seeking specific treatments mentioned on the pages therein. The report found that, when beginning treatment or changing prescriptions, patients who had sought information online requested specific treatments. It also found that younger patients were more likely to do so. For older patients, the pages were most likely to be accessed after treatment had already started, a trend that could be partially attributed to family members seeking information about their loved ones' conditions.

The full report can be read online here, or within the IMS Health iPad app here.