Medpedia, a collaborative project for medical information launched in February, is getting beyond the medical-data basics as it adds answers, alerts, and analysis.
Founded on the noble and semipractical system of providing free online medical information generated for and by physicians, journals, schools, patients, and more, Medpedia's three stated goals are to be collaborative, interdisciplinary, and transparent. The idea is to maximize knowledge and minimize the kind of screwing around that continually threatens the efficacy of other wiki-based projects. Of course, the extent to which this is successful hinges on the quality, integrity, and transparency of the editors.
While Medpedia uses the open-source software Mediawiki (also used by Wikipedia), it is less collaborative than the vast encyclopedia site, allowing only physicians and Ph.D.s approved by an editor to contribute to and edit articles. (The less medicine-literate masses are allowed to create accounts and suggest changes, but not actually make them.)
The jury's still out on whether Medpedia will be big enough to be a successful repository of up-to-date information and tame enough to be useful, but three new features, announced this week, might at least help push it out of beta incubation:
Medpedia Answers is a Q&A feature, collecting questions and answers about health, medicine, the body, etc., tagged for search optimization, and pushed to relevant articles and patient communities. Anyone who takes the time to create a profile can contribute to this section, with a top-contributors list cluing in users to which answers are written by the most informed (and involved) users.
Medpedia Alerts aggregates health and medical-news alerts. Anyone with an account can submit here as well, but this section appears intended to work something like Google Reader, with all sorts of feeds plugging into the platform.
And finally, Medpedia News & Analysis lets a wide range of sources accepted by the Medpedia community self-organize by category, and tag and cross-link to articles. This section is not, strictly speaking, licensed by Medpedia, so copyright is held by the authors themselves, which could prove tricky, as Medpedia hosts content that may or may not be allowed to be there.
Since Medpedia went live earlier this year, it has drawn thousands of members, including physicians, researchers, organizations, and experts contributing to its growing knowledge base. Plus, it has the likes of Harvard, Stanford, the National Health Services, and American Heart Association participating. Will Medpedia's less democratic editing system prove more bulletproof than Wikipedia's? So far, so good.