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Where do doctors get their information from?

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Where do doctors get their information from?

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Last week I looked at the progress of the wiki site for radiology professionals. Radiopaedia, which bills itself as a Wikipedia for radiologists, is a veritable treasure trove of x-rays, MRI scans and other explorations of our innards.  The site has grown to regularly attract thousands of visitors to it each day, and is no doubt a valuable resource for those in that profession.

It seems however that a slightly more humble version of the wiki is being used by doctors throughout the land.  A new study published recently by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics suggests that not only is Wikipedia a trusted source of information for patients, but doctors have grown to rely on the site too.

The study, called “Engaging patients through social media”, reveals that as many as 50% of all physicians regularly turn to Wikipedia for information, especially for quite specific conditions.  It also showed how frequently patients would turn to the site to look up details about a condition, with the top give most viewed over the past year being tuberculosis, Crohn’s disease, pneumonia, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

It went on to describe patients use of the site as the first step in the learning process, a use that was also quite significant amongst professionals too.

“Wikipedia entries often appear highest in the results pages of various search engines and the public perception of Wikipedia being a legitimate source of information has increased dramatically in recent years,” the report reads. “For healthcare in particular, patients are concerned about the validity and neutrality of the information they seek out, and Wikipedia increasingly meets this need, providing supplemental information to that which they receive from clinicians.”

This growth in usage has prompted projects to emerge that are aiming to improve the quality of information available on the site.  Wikiproject Medicine for instance where Wikipedia users can come together and collaborate on providing the best quality medical information on the site.  The IMS report highlighted some of the challenges involved, with many popular articles receiving daily edits and amends, thus making it hard to ensure good quality every time the page is viewed.

The report goes on to talk about the importance of using social media to reach out to patients.  With face time limited by budgetary and other resource constraints, social media offers healthcare providers an excellent way to provide the kind of pastoral care that is otherwise impossible.  This was typified by a post I made earlier this week looking at the rise of mobile based healthcare services.

As with so many other industries, it’s clear that healthcare is undergoing a significant transformation as it gets to grips with the role social media will play in how both patients and professionals behave.  The IMS report therefore provides a good overview of some of the changes occurring, and is well worth a read if you are in this industry.  You can access it below.

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