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Wikipedia Medical Articles Found To Have High Error Rate 200

Posted by timothy
from the frequently-transpose-black-and-yellow-bile dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "A group of researchers publishing in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that 90% of the Wikipedia articles they sampled contained errors regarding common medical conditions. Unsurprisingly, they recommend your General Practitioner as a more reliable source, while noting, '47% to 70% of physicians and medical students admitting to using [Wikipedia] as a reference.' At issue in the study is the small sample size the researchers used: 10 medical conditions. There are also ongoing efforts to improve the quality of Wikipedia's articles. According to a Wikipedia spokesman, '... especially in relation to health and medicine.' The BBC has more approachable coverage."
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Wikipedia Medical Articles Found To Have High Error Rate

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  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:36AM (#47099767)

    [Citation Needed]

    But also, Osteopathy leaps a bit toward the âoealternative medicineâ side of things, it wouldnâ(TM)t surprise me if Osteopaths have some issues with medical articles based on more traditional medicine.

    Having said that, how dare these quacks question the accuracy of Wikipedia! Donâ(TM)t they know they can run the gantlet of snooty Uber Editors with âoeownership issuesâ and correct these articles themselves? Of course you can be banned doing thatâ¦

    • Osteopathy itself is pretty wacky, but the trend is for schools to fall more in line with the practices of conventional medicine. It's also worth noting that osteopathic schools have a tendency to accept more non-traditional students e.g; late career change, or non-scientific undergraduate degrees.

      • by LifesABeach (234436) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:04PM (#47099997)
        One has to question the motives of a "group of reasearchers" that read an article, that can be edited, that the editors plead you edit, and then these "group of reasearchers" beat their chests in superiority. It would appear that the ability to "reach down deep, and grow a pair" is beyond this "group of reasearchers?"
      • I work with DO's all the time. The only difference is that they are trained in some physical manipulation (think physical therapy / chiropractor) that is at least as helpful as what I do as an MD (send people to the PT or chiropractor). They have the same basic training, go to the same residencies as everyone else.

        I've met crummy DOs and great DOs (just like MDs - amazing). For all practical purposes, they are the same.

        • Part of the issue here is that osteopathy outside the US has much lower credibility. I'm not sure if there's regulations in the US about who can call themselves an osteopath or apply osteopathic treatment, or if osteopathy has a stronger tie to traditional medicine in the US, or exactly what the reason is for the difference.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            They're full medical-type doctors. They had some ancient history related to bone and joint manipulation, but that's now like a barber's pole having the red swirl because they used to do bloodletting.

            They do everything including up through cardiology and cardio-thoracic surgery with the exact same training and science-based medicine. I've been to DOs a lot more than MDs.

            There should be no daylight between an MD and a DO on treatment.

            • Oh, I'm not disputing that. I'm just saying what my experience has been. Every time I've encountered the "osteopathy is bunk" rhetoric, it's invariably from someone outside the US where, I assume, you can't get a medical license as a DO.

              Modern osteopathic physicians in the US practice evidence-based medicine and are trained essentially identically to any other medical doctor in the US. DOs and MDs have essentially converged. There are some minor philosophical differences, but that's it. Outside the US,

              • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                by Anonymous Coward

                I don't think they were ever accepted as practicing physicians.

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_of_Osteopathic_Medicine#International_practice_rights [wikipedia.org]

                Since the table of nations that do accept US licensed DOs as practicing physicians is published by AOA, I think we may safely assume that they don't believe it is an error.

                Osteopathy is a sect within Western medicine. As such it harbors a slightly higher percentage of quacks. Otherwise it is, as you say, indistinguishable from traditional medical practice.

    • by mspohr (589790) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:06PM (#47100011)

      From Wikipedia (sic):
      "As with all forms of complementary and alternative medicine, the practice of osteopathy does not always adhere to evidence-based medicine (EBM). "

      Pot... Kettle... Black

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:38AM (#47099793)
    Wikipedia: where truth dies online [spiked-online.com]

    ...Wikipedia has been a massive success but has always had immense flaws, the greatest one being that nothing it publishes can be trusted. This, you might think, is a pretty big flaw. There are over 21million editors with varying degrees of competence and honesty. Rogue editors abound and do not restrict themselves to supposedly controversial topics, as the recently discovered Hillsborough example demonstrates....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MightyMartian (840721)

      Well, I guess it's no fucking good at all, we should kill the site, eradicate the errors and force everyone to pay bazillions for equally dubious mainstream encyclopedias or megabazillions for medical references.

    • by bhcompy (1877290) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:11PM (#47100055)
      Which is why you use Wikipedia as a source aggregator rather than a direct source of correct information.
      • Which is why you use Wikipedia as a source aggregator rather than a direct source of correct information.

        Exactly. I use Wikipedia as a starting point to find real sources, not as the end source.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:13PM (#47100065)

      Wikipedia like an old fashion encyclopedia, isn't the end point of knowledge but the start of it.

      Back in 4th grade we had to do research and using the Encyclopedia was considered a valid source... By 6th grade, after we got use to using the encyclopedia, we were taught not to use it as a valid source, but as a start of information as to help you know what you don't know.

      Wikipedia isn't a trusted source for facts or details... But it is good on giving you a broad overview on the topic, so you can know what you don't know and dig further using real references. To find the truth you are looking for.

      The real difference between Wikipedia vs the Encyclopedia is Wikipedia is current with a huge amount of topic , but often with fad ideas. The Encyclopedia is often has less topics and older sometime out of date information, but it more better verified for the current science of the times.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      I find it strange that people generally exhibit good critical thinking skills when it comes to Wikipedia (fact checking, understanding sources, looking for biases), but gleefully eat up their favorite news channels without a second of thought. No source of information is free of biases or errors, but at least Wikipedia actively works to avoid them.
      • Most people don't just get their medical info from WiPe. It may be a starting place, but they tend to look through all the popular medical sites as well. You can find consistencies between them that can give you a sense of what can be taken with greater confidence. The problem is that many sites copy from one another, so if you see the same words used in multiple places, consider it an unverified copy.
  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:40AM (#47099803)
    I am shocked. Shocked. No one would use a widely accessed platform to push a POV nor would it be adequately vetted by professionals for accuracy and completeness and edits limited to trusted sources. Add in that their are many more people who think they are experts that aren't and it is a wonder that Wikipedia's accuracy is above 0%.
    • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:50AM (#47099895) Homepage

      No controls. I am going to hazard a bet that if they did this to Web MD, Mayo Clinic or any one of the innumerable other lay accessible web sites, they would get similar results. Given that even the '10 most expensive medical conditions in the country' are not fully explained, categorized or treated having different interpretations or different recommendations is hardly surprising.

      Even with professionally sourced and vetted resources you will find differences of opinion. Hell, even the 'reference' documents on a particular condition have differing conclusions depending on whose writing them and who won the argument in the committee.

      To a first approximation, everything you know is wrong. Take it from there.

    • by MacTO (1161105)

      On the other hand, Wikipedia is a lot more credible than most of the books and magazines containing "medical" advice. Not all books, to be certain, because there are many that are vetted by professionals for accuracy and completeness. Yet it seems as though the vast majority of books that are meant to be accessible to non-professionals are doing little more than push a POV. Because those books cannot be edited by third parties, as the Wikipedia can, there are few avenues to criticize inaccurate informati

    • Not only that, but I have made several edits to where the "source" for the information either contradicted what was being documented, or didn't have any relation at all. Especially cites from NIH, people use the article title as reference, but the contents of the article have little to do with how the wikipedia editor interpreted them. A perfect example is the Timeline of the far future [wikipedia.org]. The citations are dubious at BEST and flat out wrong in a significant amount of cases.
    • by OneAhead (1495535)
      I'm not saying you don't have a point, but Wikipedia's accuracy is actually close to the Encyclopaedia Britannica [nature.com]. Anything people do will have errors, whether due to malice or incompetence. And even if it doesn't initially, accuracy is a moving target, and errors in science and medicine will accumulate over time as our knowledge itself evolves. In my experience, statements such as yours are often used by the intellectually lazy to dismiss Wikipedia as evidence that their worldview is out of touch with real
      • I'm not saying you don't have a point, but Wikipedia's accuracy is actually close to the Encyclopaedia Britannica [nature.com]. Anything people do will have errors, whether due to malice or incompetence. And even if it doesn't initially, accuracy is a moving target, and errors in science and medicine will accumulate over time as our knowledge itself evolves. In my experience, statements such as yours are often used by the intellectually lazy to dismiss Wikipedia as evidence that their worldview is out of touch with reality, so a little bit less hyperbole would be advantageous for intelligent discourse. Sure, people will try to push their agendas. They will be frustrated by bona fide editors as well as people trying to push an opposite agenda, and the end result comes out quite OK compared to other sources of information.

        While I agree Wikipedia generally comes out OK, the real danger, IMHO, is from its edibility. People view it at a point in time and thus the quality and accuracy of the information varies depending on the last edit. Couple that with a perception that Wikipedia is an authoritative source and you have a situation where someone can get bad information while believing it to be accurate. In fairness, that is not a Wikipedia unique issue but rather a problem with how people view internet information; where the ar

  • by mehrotra.akash (1539473) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:44AM (#47099835)
    A /. article mentions that Wikipedia has an error in 90% of medical articles
    Now, keep in mind that /. itself has an error in x% of news items posted here
    So, the actual error rate of Wikipedia medical articles should be (1-x/100)*90 % shouldnt it?
    Assuming it is actually 90% would lead to the conclusion that /. has a 0% error rate...
  • Osteopath cred? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Geste (527302) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:47AM (#47099877)
    Like I am going to accept wisdom from a bunch of osteopaths???
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, you can accept wisdom from osteopaths. First, you have to take a single drop and put it in a vat of thousands of gallons of water. Then you distill that until one drop is left. Put that drop in a second vat of thousands of gallons of water, take one drop of the result, and then go to the NIH and get them to fund a study. Complete the study, get it peer-reviewed and published in a real journal. Then you'll have accepted wisdom from osteopaths. Trust me, it's the homeopathic way.

      • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:06PM (#47100013) Homepage

        You took the wrong path there. Turn around before you get hurt.

    • Re:Osteopath cred? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps (1157495) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:59AM (#47099967)

      Right? A group of people practicing what is basically a total scam are questioning a site that might threaten their scam publicly?

      I suspect the real article they'd like to discredit on Wikipedia is this one:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

      the practice of osteopathy does not always adhere to evidence-based medicine

      and

      In general, the results of randomized, controlled clinical trials have not proven osteopathy to be an effective therapy. Reviews of scientific literature produce little evidence that osteopathic manipulation is effective for the treatment of musculoskeletal pain,[21] or for pediatric conditions.[22]

      A 2013 Cochrane Review reviewed six randomized controlled trials which investigated the effect of four types of chest physiotherapy (including OMT) as adjunctive treatments for pneumonia in adults and concluded that "based on current limited evidence, chest physiotherapy might not be recommended as routine additional treatment for pneumonia in adults."[23]

      In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence only recommend osteopathy for the treatment of persistent lower back pain. They say there is insufficient scientific evidence that osteopathy is effective for non-musculoskeletal conditions, or that osteopathy is an effective treatment for neck pain, shoulder pain, or limb pain.[3]

      • Funny, Cochrane says that about MOST allopathic (standard western medical) treatments. Basically, none of know jack.

      • Right? A group of people practicing what is basically a total scam are questioning a site that might threaten their scam publicly?

        I suspect the real article they'd like to discredit on Wikipedia is this one:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O... [wikipedia.org]

        the practice of osteopathy does not always adhere to evidence-based medicine

        To be completely fair, it's been my experience that most medical doctors don't adhere to evidence-based medicine either.

        "Oh, you have [Symptom]? Here take [Sponsored Drug]. No, we don't need to run any tests, if [Sponsored Drug] doesn't work we'll give you [other Sponsored Drug]. That usually works."

        Yes, I have been given essentially that exact edict by several former doctors of mine. They were all wrong, BTW - no amount of Sponsored Drugs could fix my busted gallbladder. 'Course, had any of them bothered t

        • Doubly so for psychiatrists.

          • Never met one.

            At least, not one that wasn't a full time employee at Steak N Shake.

            • I think you're thinking of psychologists. There are massive numbers of psychology majors who can't get jobs. Psychiatrists, on the other hand, have an MD and can prescribe medications. The problem is, all they do is prescribe meds, and their entire field is controlled by Big Pharma. Push them pills push them pills push them pills.

              • I was thinking of psychologists.

                Not surprising that legal drug dealers don't have trouble finding work, especially in this day and age where everyone is slowly being convinced that normal human behavior is actually a personality disorder requiring a prescription.

                Sad today? There's a drug for that.

                Happy drugs not working well enough? There's a drug for that.

                Supplemental happy drugs make you too happy? There's a drug for that.

                Body fatigued from all the chemical imbalance caused by too many drugs? There's a dr

                • ...in this day and age where everyone is slowly being convinced that normal human behavior is actually a personality disorder requiring a prescription.

                  • Sad today? There's a drug for that.
                  • Happy drugs not working well enough? There's a drug for that.
                  • Supplemental happy drugs make you too happy? There's a drug for that.
                  • Body fatigued from all the chemical imbalance caused by too many drugs? There's a drug for that.
                  • Hooked on prescription drugs? There's a drug for that, too!
                  • Feeling homicidal because all the drugs we put you on totally fucked up your brain chemistry? Sorry, you're on your own, good luck with that.

                  One could replace the word "drug" with "app" and make a similarly interesting observation...in this day and age.

                  • Except the fact that no "app" currently on the market has the capability to directly alter your body chemistry via the bloodstream.

                    $deity help us when that day comes...

                    • Except the fact that no "app" currently on the market has the capability to directly alter your body chemistry via the bloodstream.

                      Tinder and Grinder ... come pretty close (so to speak) :-) Only a few degrees of separation away from directly altering your body chemistry.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          Now take the cost of that one particular obvious-in-hindsight test, multiplied by the incidence rate of your condition, and compare it to the cost of the several drugs, multiplied by the incidence rates of all the conditions you didn't have. See if it's really cost-effective to test for everything up front.

          • Where did I say they should "test everything up front?" The argument is that medical doctors don't always use '"evidence-based medicine," occasionally preferring to just throw drugs at a wall and hope something sticks. Shit, I could do that, and I didn't bother with 12 years of medical school.

            I did, however, suffer with gallbladder disease through 13 years, 10 different doctors, and about 50 different useless drugs (for other ailments), until I finally found an MD who gave enough of a shit about my personal

            • by lgw (121541)

              I've found it helps to actually talk through the "trouble-shooting process" if the first thing the doc shoves you out the door with doesn't work. If you come in with a set of symptoms, the doc is going to treat the most likely cause of those symptoms (assuming that treatment doesn't have significant side-effects), and likely won't want to spend much time on that first visit. Mostly, that actually works. But when it doesn't, it's important to follow up, and actually hold him to some diagnostic process

              Side note - if "cost-effectiveness" is the most important part of medical science to you, I pray you're not a big player in that industry

              "Med

              • I've found it helps to actually talk through the "trouble-shooting process" if the first thing the doc shoves you out the door with doesn't work. If you come in with a set of symptoms, the doc is going to treat the most likely cause of those symptoms (assuming that treatment doesn't have significant side-effects), and likely won't want to spend much time on that first visit. Mostly, that actually works. But when it doesn't, it's important to follow up, and actually hold him to some diagnostic process

                Have you ever tried to argue with a doctor's prognosis? I have, and in my experience it's usually met with a smart-ass "well, which one of us went to medical school?"

                Again, in my experience, you're better off just doctor-shopping until you find one that isn't a pretentious, narcissistic jackass. Which might take some time.

                Side note - if "cost-effectiveness" is the most important part of medical science to you, I pray you're not a big player in that industry

                "Medical care" isn't something there's an infinite supply for. Demand in fact exceeds supply. Shouldn't the industry try to help as many people as efficiently as possible with the available resources? Or, in fewer words: cost-effectiveness.

                I never said that cost-effectiveness shouldn't be a factor, I merely indicated that it shouldn't be the most important factor in an industry that requires people to take an oath of "first,

                • by lgw (121541)

                  You're not arguing against "cost-effective", you're arguing against incompetence. There's also a real problem in the medical industry today with piling on 6 tests when 1-2 will do, either as a CYA or simply to ramp up costs - which is terrible, as it really inflates the cost of getting e.g. an MRI far beyond what it would cost without needless testing.

                  • You're not arguing against "cost-effective", you're arguing against incompetence.

                    I'm actually, in this particular instance, arguing against OP's reductio ad absurdum of "See if it's really cost-effective to test for everything up front." The discussion has digressed from that point, as they so often do.

                    But yes, incompetence is the real issue of the day (regardless of the medical field), and from what I can tell it's pretty damn rampant among MDs. According to this article, [wsj.com] almost every hospital has at least one surgeon referred to as "HODAD," or Hand Of Death And Destruction, and nobody

        • To be completely fair, it's been my experience that most medical doctors don't adhere to evidence-based medicine either.

          "Adhere" and "Completely ignore" are 2 entirely different things. I can understand a doctor suggesting a treatment that's only based on anecdotal evidence. For example, Chronic Dehydration is a problem that at least 20% of the population has, but it's very hard to test for and very hard to diagnose because its symptoms are so diverse. A doctor could suggest you drink more water to help with just about any symptom you have and he'd only know that anecdotally there was a 20%+ chance of you being dehydrated. T

          • Mind you, I'm not defending Osteopathy (barely even know what it is, anyway), but rather pointing out that inability/unwillingness to base conclusions on evidence isn't exclusive to that field, as I've experienced many, many medical doctors who basically guess at your symptoms and start throwing different pills at you until something works.

            TL;DR version - Bullshit prognosis based on faulty reasoning is a valid issue regardless of which particular medical field we're discussing. Not-So-Fun fact, MD's kill so [mercola.com]

    • Re:Osteopath cred? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Animats (122034) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:02PM (#47099985) Homepage

      Mod parent up. This is from a group of osteopaths. Here's what Wikpedia has to say about osteopathy:

      (Osteopaths) believe that their treatments, which primarily consist of moving, stretching and massaging a personâ(TM)s muscles and joints, help allow the body to heal itself.

      As with all forms of complementary and alternative medicine, the practice of osteopathy does not always adhere to evidence-based medicine (EBM). There are few high-quality research studies demonstrating that osteopathy is effective in treating any medical condition other than lower back pain.[2][3] In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends osteopathy for the treatment of persistent lower back pain.[4] However, analysis of peer-reviewed research yields little evidence that osteopathy is effective for non-musculoskeletal conditions, and limited evidence that osteopathy is an effective treatment for some types of neck pain, shoulder pain, or limb pain.

      No wonder they're unhappy with Wikipedia.

      Now if Cell or JAMA or The New England Journal of Medicine complained about Wikipedia, that would be worthy of note.

      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        Mod parent up. This is from a group of osteopaths. Here's what Wikpedia has to say about osteopathy:

        (Osteopaths) believe that their treatments, which primarily consist of moving, stretching and massaging a person's muscles and joints, help allow the body to heal itself.

        When I was young my doctor was a DO. I don't recall ever getting a massage from him, but I do remember all the same vaccines and treatments with prescriptions and everything. And when my appendix went wonky I was in the hospital that day.

        Perhaps osteopathy has changed in the last two decades, but I doubt it. From what I could tell back then, DO and MD were both licensed medical doctors who did the same things.

    • by Jahta (1141213)

      Like I am going to accept wisdom from a bunch of osteopaths???

      My thoughts exactly. In 2010 the British Chiropractic Association sued Dr. Simon Singh for libel [bbc.co.uk] for suggesting (on his blog) that some of their claims and practices were dubious at best. The courts (which have tended to be quite plaintiff friendly in UK libel cases) initially found against Dr. Singh, though his legal team managed to get that overturned on appeal on the basis that his article was "fair comment". This smells like something similar.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:48AM (#47099881)

    Yes, I get that no article on Wikipedia is going to be 100% accurate, but this study is just plain bunk.

    First off, they mention that they had "experts" review 10 articles for the most expensive-to-treat medical issues. They have all kinds of mathematical figures, but nowhere do they actually list key things like:

    - Who was it that reviewed each article?
    - Were they an expert in that field, or an osteopath?
    - Which "peer-reviewed sources" were they using?
    - How did they determine mistakes?

    None of these questions are answered in the "methods" section of their paper. Further, their OWN SOURCES dispute what they found. For instance, they link to http://jop.ascopubs.org/content/7/5/319.abstract?ijkey=428353f0b3eb338fad1bf0f79139dd275c7670fe&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha , a study that looked at cancer information on Wikipedia versus information in a maintained professional database on the same subject. What did they find?

    "Conclusion: Although the wiki resource had similar accuracy and depth as the professionally edited database, it was significantly less readable. Further research is required to assess how this influences patients' understanding and retention. "

    This sounds like bunk to me.

    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      umm, they did mention where they told people to search, and they did mention at least the current occupations of the reviewers. They didn't have 'all kinds of mathematical figures' (I'm starting to suspect you've never read a paper before). They had tables, which showed examples of how they classified concordance or not. They don't have names, but why would they, or do you not know how science is conducted?

      Whether or not they're an osteopath has nothing to do with whether or not they are competent revi

  • Cancel the appointment with Dr Otto Didact, M D, University of Wikipedia.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:51AM (#47099899)

    I am a physician, and I admit that I use it on an irregular basis. But let's keep this in context. I don't look up how to diagnose or treat conditions. I do use it to look up obscure things, as well as review anatomy. Information that either is just for personal knowledge that is not critical to management (example: what is the name of the nerve that innervates the serratus anterior?), or information that is hard to get wrong (example: what are the muscles of the knee called? I once had to look up VMO because I could not remember what the "O" stood for). Even then, if it makes even a small difference, I always look it up further in a medical resource. So I am one of the 47-70% of physicians who look up facts in wikipedia. I don't think that is a bad thing.

    • by Ardyvee (2447206)

      And this seems to me the proper use of wikipedia.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      I've often said that Wikipedia should be considered like an expert in any given field: Usually right, especially on basics, but may be missing the finer points here and there.

      Everything you say you've looked up on Wikipedia could also be done with a call to a colleague, but you didn't need to bother someone else with your query. You didn't need to explain what you were looking for to find it, and you don't need to maintain a large professional network outside your specialty. I see no problem here.

    • I don't think any physician is using Wikipedia for any as the sole resource for important therapeutic decisions, but it is a good resource for quite a bit of stuff. A patient recently told me that they were allergic to Lorabid - an old antibiotic that had been discontinued in the US a while back. The Wikipedia article indeed indicated that to be true and, importantly, what it was similar to.

      Since this was a potentially life and death decision (the patient had an anaphylactiod reaction), I cross checked it

  • And who makes those judgments? I can go to pubmed.com right now and find quite a few contradictory articles, and more than a few that might charitably be described as "fluffy."

    If the goddamned medical community is so concerned about this, they can come up with a web site that's peer reviewed by their selected group of experts and pretends to be the last word on medical data.

    No word yet of course, on how the esteemed "medical community" missed the problems with Vioxx, post-menopausal hormones, cobalt hip im

    • If the goddamned medical community is so concerned about this, they can come up with a web site that's peer reviewed by their selected group of experts and pretends to be the last word on medical data.

      No such animal. Even the 'reference article' on a particular condition (say, community acquired pneumonia) will have controversies and areas where the data just doesn't exist or doesn't agree. I've listened to numerous lectures where one faction of said committee argues vehemently with another about points that will eventually get printed as a 'consensus' statement. It's just the nature of the complexity of the topic and our fundamentally limited understanding of biology.

      Besides, it's just a bunch of Ost

  • these criticisms of wikipedia are ignorant and useless to profitable discussion

    it shows an inherent misunderstanding of how citations work *AND* how the internet works

    not every sentence must be cited by a peer reviewed journal...ever...anywhere...only some law briefs go to that length & a human may or may not ever read it

    science is NOT a citation competition, nor is it a pedantry pageant

    the 90% figure is bullshit stats conjuring...where are the examples?

    what's there threshold for "error"?

    they only looked at *10 articles*

    heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, trauma-related disorders, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/asthma, hypertension, diabetes, back problems, and hyperlipidemia.

    and they DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT identify side by side the "bad" knowledge of wikipedia and their correct source

    all we get is this admission, which confirms all my criticisms, from TFA:

    For example, the diabetes mellitus Wikipedia article stated that it is a condition in “which a person has high blood sugar.” One reviewer might have accurately recorded this statement as an assertion, whereas another might have assumed the statement to be common knowledge and erroneously not recorded it as an assertion. These incongruent criteria for assertions may explain the difference found between reviewers.

    so no consistent definitions of terms or standards were used, at all...

    this is crap science....[citation needed]

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      science is NOT a citation competition, nor is it a pedantry pageant

      I take it you've never worked in a research position.

      • yeah I have...the time my work was most research focused I was the data analyst for a journalism prof who had all kinds of awesome location/observation data for mobile device usage and a small locus of small businesses

        I had to sort through 5 years of survey data that used 5, 7, and 13 point likert scale responses...this was a usability survey that accomanied the observation/tracking data

        we had an undergrad research asst. litterally follow students who were high frequency users of mobile digital technology a

  • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie&hotmail,com> on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:58AM (#47099953) Homepage

    Using percentages when speaking of a sample size of...god damn 10 conditions....is just really effing stupid and looks like it was specifically meant as click-baiting. The honest way of saying this would have been simply "The researchers sampled 10 conditions on Wikipedia and found that 9 of them were incorrect." See? No alarmist "90%omgomgworld'sgoingtoburn" bullshit there.

    Now, call me back when the sample size is actually worth a damn. 10 conditions out of all the bajillion different ones mentioned on Wikipedia is simply too little to draw any sort of meaningful rule about the quality of them all.

  • I'd be interested to see a similar review of sites such as WebMD. Is this only a Wikipedia issue?
  • Seriously - how many physicians, even among the specialists, keep themselves up to date on the latest research? Many of them do, many of them are passionate, geeky about what they do, and in their spare time they'll be reading up on the latest research, they'll go to conferences, etc., like a passionate geeky programmer would. But many, and i'd say most, just don't. Their knowledge is whatever they were taught. And that wasn't necessarily the state of the art at the time they graduated - that depends on how
    • by Kingkaid (2751527)
      Amen to that. This is why you ask the appropriate person the question. I ask my pharmacist about drugs, the nurse about practical elements, dietician about food, etc.
  • Compared to? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RobinH (124750) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:19PM (#47100111) Homepage
    The only useful comparison would be against a print-edition encyclopedia. What percentage of medical articles in a typical encyclopedia contain errors? The other thing is, just because it contains "an error" doesn't mean it isn't useful. We get through most days with a fairly flawed view of reality (most of us anyway).
  • I saw it on the internet.

    Seriously, Who's surprised that Wikipedia has errors in the medical information it contains? Who is surprised that there are doctors that still use it? We all act like this is somehow a serious problem, or that it's dangerous. Dangerous compared to what? Wikipedia is an excellent place to *start* an investigation, but before you start making life and death choices, you really need to check some other sources. Doctor's are generally NOT stupid enough to just go with something the

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:32PM (#47100231) Homepage
    For a few years I maintained a sizeable collection of Wikipedia articles. I was very meticulous in checking all of the data, trying to use only the best sources and citing them all, per section of each sentence if necessary. However, it was a constant battle to keep others from adding anything from dubious information found in newspaper articles ("Somebody printed it, so it must be true!") to subtle attempts at vandalism (e.g. changing 501 mg to 502 mg for no reason). Many poor articles are eventually raised up to a certain level, but over time the good ones are also erroded to a point where they contain many more errors than expected. Other than relying on armies of experts (who often receive little respect) to constantly police their articles, Wikipedia has no mechanisms to prevent this from happening. It's a fundamental problem for them, but one which they can do little about without changing their most basic policies.
  • >> 47% to 70% of physicians and medical students admitting to using [Wikipedia] as a reference.' At issue in the study is the small sample size the researchers used: 10 medical conditions.

    Uh...between 47% and 70% of people means you surveyed what - 3 people? 4? (OK, I looked - it's a range of numbers from OTHER people's surveys.)

    Here's just one possible flaw with that conclusion: If I was a doctor, I would look up what Wikipedia says about a condition just to see what my patient is going to read w

  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @12:44PM (#47100371) Homepage

    IMHO the article written [jaoa.org] is not of publishable quality. (The journal it *did* get published in has a very low impact factor of 1.3.) It's badly written, poorly supported, and subject to substantial methodological errors.

    Each subject comparison is based entirely on the subjective evaluation of a random med student. It doesn't seem like they even provided them with standard protocols. They just assumed that any discrepancies represented factual errors in the wikipedia article. They didn't make comparison to other sources or even internal to the literature.

    It would be lovely if they would actually include some of the assertions they evaluated. But frankly I would put infinitely more faith in the Wikipedia articles cited than this particular report. Certainly they represent better and more substantial writing.

  • Unfortunately for the premise of this study, Dr Ioannidis' well-known findings suggest that most scientific papers are also inaccurate. So we can't draw reliable conclusions as to the accuracy of Wikipedia articles. Indeed, it is possible - though admittedly quite unlikely - that the Wikipedia articles are correct in each case, and the scientific papers incorrect.

    See http://www.plosmedicine.org/ar... [plosmedicine.org]

  • News Flash... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...Many articles published in medical journals are also wrong. What about the never-ending debate about X being good for you, then bad, then good again, where X = coffee, butter, etc.?

  • Once i knew the condition, the next visit, I knew more than the doctor.

    And doctors looked at the symptoms and got them wrong as well.

    And many doctors treat only the numbers. This ignores the fact that humans react differently to substances.

    But it all fits their practice model.

    Train hard. Then mostly stop training and rely on information from drug people. See a patient once or twice a year-- one among several hundred-- so you really have no clue who they are or what is wrong with them other than your note

  • I am a physician... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tpjunkie (911544) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @01:15PM (#47100619) Journal
    in residency, and yes, from time to time I'll look up something on wikipedia on my phone for a quick overview if its a condition I'm not familiar with, or is outside my specialty, and I'm rounding or otherwise away from a computer. However, I don't use it for treatment or diagnostic purposes; there exist much better, peer reviewed sources for that, which I will happily access from a computer. That being said, I'd say a large amount of the wikipedia articles tend to be pretty decent, and at least sound as if they've been written by someone with some sort of formal medical treatment. They get the quick and dirty job done about 75% of the time for me.
    • by reg (5428)

      written by someone with some sort of formal medical treatment

      Glad to see the Internet crazies are getting some kind of treatment...

      Regards,
      -Jeremy

      • by tpjunkie (911544)
        oof. Clearly, I meant training...which totally didn't happen because of any sleep-deprivation, honestly...
  • ...when every medical student and intern carried around a copy of "The Merck Manual" http://www.amazon.com/The-Merc... [amazon.com]
    They even have an on-line version now. Dear gawd why would an MD/DO, or even a wannabe, use the wiki for such things?
  • In fact, almost any source of information in an ever-changing science and practice will contain statements that can be contested. Even major medical textbooks disagree in details or between editions. So, I don't thing anyone expects a wikipedia article to be absolutely accurate because such an article rarely exists even in the "peer-reviewed" domain. In practice, I used wikipedia as a decent source of information several times. I suppose I would have noticed glaring omissions or errors and I'm not even look

  • When the primary sources of the knowledge you are compiling are also rife with errors your articles will be full of errors as well. This isn't unique to wikipedia, all encyclopedias suffer from this.
  • by hendrips (2722525) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @03:39PM (#47101891)

    While the results of this particular study may be questionable, it's annoying to see how many comments dismiss the study out of hand just because it was performed by osteopathic physicians. I can't speak for the rest of the world, but in the US, "Doctor of Osteopathic" has a specific meaning - they are legitimate physicians whose training differs from that of allopathic physicians in philosophy rather than in medical knowledge or practice.

    The only medical distinction between a "traditional" MD and a DO is that a DO undergoes an 8 week course in osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), which is a specific therapy for lower back pain, and which NIH studies have shown to be "mildly to moderately effective." Other than that, medical training between the two branches is indistinguishable.

    There's a common quip about quack medicine: "What do you call alternative medicine when it gets scientifically verified? Medicine." I find it comforting that at least one group of (former) quacks in the US actually took that sentiment to heart. Now if only chiropractors and homeopaths would do the same...

  • Wikipedia NO, but thorough scouring of the Internet for information coming from peer reviewed medical journals - U.S., and foreign - greatly reduces the informational advantage that physicians used to enjoy over patients. Furthermore it puts up to the minute information in patients' hands, vs. docs who are so overloaded with patients they scarcely get time to go to conferences or view lectures to satisfy continuing education requirements. Doctors also tend be highly opinionated people who quickly discoun

  • by shilly (142940) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @06:15PM (#47103023)

    That the article doesn't actually give any examples of what the errors were, nor attempt to assess whether they were material errors or trivial? The methodology is admirably explicit on the science and completely opaque on the cognitive method used by the not especially eminent physicians to determine whether an assertion was accurate or inaccurate in either the Wikipedia article or the medical literature equivalent.

    Seems pretty dubious to me!

  • Better known as the PDR, anytime your Doctor says excuse me for a bit. The chances are very great they are flipping through a PDR trying to find the "right pill/treatment" for you.

    If your Google the PDR you get link after link of how reliable it is on, all but the first hit.
    http://www.personalconsult.com... [personalconsult.com] and it nails the problem with the PDR.

    "The PDR is merely a drug's package insert. It is a FDA regulated article limited to merely the research submitted to the FDA typically to get a product approved for sale to you. Sometimes the information is from research from after the drug is out and being used by patients--new issues or problems arise. Period. It offers little else!" (edited "FDAÑtypically to FDA typically")

    ... "For example, one new anti-psychotic drug, Abilify, is listed in the PDR as a drug, which has doses of 15 mg, 20 mg and 30 mg. Guess what would happen if psychotic youth were given this PDR official dose?

    If I gave that to kids with psychosis, I would have vomiting and stuporous patients. Continuing to follow the PDR would be cruelty." ...

    "In no way does the PDR describe nor purport to describe the standard of care. Half the prescriptions in the nation are written off label. In other words, doctors think of useful and helpful ways which have not been approved by the massive FDA, you know, the ones who shut down Canadian drug stores in the USA.

    If a doctor fails to place patients on a medication for the non-approved PDR indication, but the custom is that most doctors do, the doctor is clearly outside the standard of care. Thus quoting the PDR as authoritative represents the failure to comply with half of the standard of care in the US.

    Some doctors would testify that limiting oneself to PDR approved indications and dosage is quackery that should result in the loss of license, as a threat to the health of the public. Half the customary prescribed treatment would be missed by this doctor."

    http://www.personalconsult.com... [personalconsult.com]

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