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According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 61% of adults look online for health information . Surprisingly however, three-quarters of those searching don’t consistently check the source and date of the health reference they find . Indeed, searching for health information online is dangerous and finding credible, up-to-date sources of health information can be a challenge.
Wikipedia is the Web’s most popular free online encyclopedia. If you’ve ever searched for health or medical content online, Wikipedia articles typically appear at or near the top of search engine results. Nevertheless, Wikipedia’s medical entries are prone to manipulation and are not reliable . Moreover, in many cases you don’t know who has contributed content nor their background or expertise.
Wisdom of crowds is the new model for innovation on the Internet in which collective knowledge is thought to be superior to the intelligence of the few. Nevertheless, not all crowds are wise. Recent cases and new research suggests that crowdsourcing is only truly successful when it is focused on a specific task and when the most effective collaborators are involved .
The Medpedia Project is a long-term, worldwide initiative to develop an online collaborative source of health and medical information for medical professionals and the general public. A joint effort with Harvard Medical School, Stanford School of Medicine, Berkeley School of Public Health, University of Michigan Medical School and other global health organizations, the intent of Medpedia is to be a repository of up-to-date unbiased medical information, contributed and maintained by health experts around the world and freely available to the general public. Unlike Wikipedia, which allows anyone to modify pages, Medpedia content creators and editors are required to have an M.D., D.O. or Ph.D. in a biomedical field; each contributor has an author page detailing their qualifications and background.
Health consumers can also create a profile on Medpedia. This enables them to suggest changes to the medical knowledge base, request articles, join Medpedia Communities and follow topics of interest.
The goal of The Medpedia Project is to evolve a new model for how the world accesses medical knowledge. Launched in February 2009, the website is comprised of three main sections:
- the knowledge base (i.e. a collaborative encyclopedia)
- a professional network and directory
- communities of interest
The Medpedia knowledge base consists of articles divided into two pages: a “Plain English” page for the lay public and a “Clinical” page for professional users. Medpedia currently has 14,700 pages of health and medical content (based on a Google domain search).
The Medpedia Professional Network and Directory allows users to find and maintain contacts. Designed as a LinkedIn for the medical community, in addition to direct user-to-user messages, the platform employs a Facebook-like Wall to communicate with other users, working groups and associations.
Lastly, Medpedia Communities provide a section for medical experts and patients to share information and communicate inside Medpedia.
Medpedia Answers and Alerts
Medpedia offers several tools for users to interact and stay informed.
Medpedia Answers enables registered users to ask or answer a question about health or medicine. Questions are organized into sixteen categories, including Allergies, Nutrition, Oncology/Cancer and Surgery. Once you ask a question, it is posted for the community to see. You’ll receive an alert by email when another Medpedia member answers it.
Medpedia Alerts aggregates breaking health and medical news from from Twitter, blogs and news media. Alerts are also divided into fifteen categories, including Research, Flu, Drug Research & Recalls, and Epidemics/Outbreaks. Each channel offers an RSS feed. Medpedia members can include an alert in the Medpedia Alerts Stream by submitting a short text description and URL; they can also submit a blog, website or Twitter account for integration into the platform on an ongoing basis. All submissions are reviewed by the Medpedia community before they go live.
Important updates and events about Medpedia are posted on Twitter @Medpedia. Medpedia Alerts also has a Twitter account @MedpediaAlerts, which is frequently updated with recent health news. Additionally, you can follow Medpedia on Facebook.
According to James Currier, Medpedia founder and chariman :
Over the last ten years on the Internet, remarkable breakthroughs have taken place in collaborative knowledge sharing and communication that have yet to be provided to the medical community. You can see the power of these breakthroughs in companies such as Wikipedia and WikiHow which provide collaborative knowledge sharing, LinkedIn which provides a professional network and directory, and Facebook which supports communities of interest. We’ve added to these breakthroughs, adapted them for medicine and health, and are putting them in one free platform for the medical community. The Medpedia Platform will continue to expand as the medical community finds even more uses for it.
Medpedia has only been publicly accessible since February, so it will take some time to build up a comprehensive article base. Nevertheless, it is already providing a reliable source of health and medical information in today’s all too often online world of anonymous wikis and blogs. The next time you search for health and medical information, use Medpedia.
- The Social Life of Health Information. Pew Internet & American Life Project. 2009 Jun 11.
- Online Health Search 2006. Pew Internet & American Life Project. 2006 Oct 29.
- Wikipedia isn’t really the patient’s friend. USA Today editorial. 2009 Jul 15.
- The Crowd Is Wise (When It’s Focused). The New York Times. 2009 Jul 18.
- Medpedia Launches. Medpedia press release. 2009 Feb 17.