Did your surgery take longer than expected? If so, maybe your surgeon was looking up tips on Wikipedia. Sounds far fetched -- and that example surely is -- but according to a report in April by U.S. health care consultancy Manhattan Research, 50 percent of doctors turn to Wikipedia for medical information.
Part of the reason for this may be that Wikipedia entries often dominate search engine results. In an unrelated study in this month's Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association , it was discovered that Wikipedia articles appear in the top 10 results for more than 70 percent of medical queries across four different search engines.
"My overall impression is that the quality of health information varies wildly, almost ridiculously wildly," said Kevin Clauson, a pharmacologist at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "If [a website] is treated as an authoritative source, and there's evidence that it isn't, then it's potentially dangerous."
On the positive side, several studies have found that Wikipedia's medical content is almost entirely free of factual errors in many cases, but the risk remains for "vandalism" by malicious users.
Image Credit: Wikipedia