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New Study: 50% of Physicians Reported Consulting Wikipedia

Danny Hillis said, “In case the internet crashes, what we need is a plan B … independent of the Internet. It doesn't necessarily have to have the performance of the Internet, but the police department has to be able to call up the fire department.”

That sounds like pretty good advice to me since a new study shows that Wikipedia is the single leading source of health care information for both doctors and patients, with 50 percent of physicians reporting that they’ve consulted the community-edited, online encyclopedia for information on health conditions.  Which is pretty scary when you really think about it.  Although Wikipedia is the largest general reference website on the net However, the online encyclopedia’s more than 71,000 active editors have no credential checks, and there are numerous instances of deliberate vandalism and fabricated posts.

Now don’t get me wrong I think when doctors collaborate with other doctors online and share findings and treatments across a range of specialties and areas of expertise, everyone wins.  But I don’t believe relying on a hit or miss Internet reference site is the best idea.  There are better sites and references such to be consulted, the Physician’s Desk Reference, is one example.

Outside the cyber world hundreds of thousands of people are dying every year due to preventable medical malpractice errors made by doctors, hospitals and nurses. The number of estimated Americans that died each year from medical errors was thought to be 98,000. However, that estimate was nearly three decades old and based on data from 1984.  A startling new, evidence-based, estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care puts the number at between 210,000 and 440,000 annually.  The biggest mistake that doctors often make is misdiagnosis. In a 2013 study of 190 primary-care medical cases, physicians missed 68 diagnoses including pneumonia, congestive heart failure and acute kidney failure.


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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