Web Exclusive: Study advises to use caution using Wikipedia for health questions

Web Exclusive

(CNN) - If you have a question about your health, do you use Wikipedia?  The crowd-sourced encyclopedia is a popular tool for some students and others for a quick answer to their questions, but new research says you may want to avoid the world of Wikipedia when it comes to your health.
A lot of us are probably guilty of this at one time or another, having a medical condition or sickness and instead of going to the doctor, we hop online to look up what we think it is.  The new study, just published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, tested the reliability of the crowd-sourced entries on the Wikipedia.  Researchers looked at the ten most costly medical conditions in the country, like lung cancer, back pain and osteoarthritis.

They found the Wikipedia entries contradict medical research for peer-reviewed journals, a whopping 90%t of the time.  Information on nine out of the ten entries had errors, but it's not just those of us at home who are using it.  The study also found that 47% to 70% of physicians and medical students use it as a reference.
So, it's not surprising, that researchers conclude-- caution should be used when using websites, for any medical questions.  CNN reached out to Wikipedia for comment about the the study.  And in an article for the Atlantic, one of the editors for the site says that even as Wikipedia's quality improves, patients should always use professionals to get the best recommendations.


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