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Wikipedia Medical Articles Found To Have High Error Rate

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the frequently-transpose-black-and-yellow-bile dept.

Wikipedia 200

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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Let's get this out of the way... (3, Insightful)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 months ago | (#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¦

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099831)

I âgree(TM).

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099869)

Slashdot does not support Unicode except in Beta. Unfortunately, I do.

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100001)

Consider it a punishment for using a "close single quote" character as an apostrophe.

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (1)

jandrese (485) | about 2 months ago | (#47100335)

What else would you use?

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (1)

Teranolist (3658793) | about 2 months ago | (#47100381)

Not sure, but maybe the actual apostrophe key?

Re: iCode crap from iApple(Sqore:500000) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100343)

It's not Unicode, it's that iCode crap from iApple.

Re: iCode crap from iApple(Sqore:500000) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100739)

SQUORE

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (2)

belg4mit (152620) | about 2 months ago | (#47099875)

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.

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (3, Insightful)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 2 months ago | (#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?"

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (4, Funny)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 2 months ago | (#47100257)

We're talking about osteopaths, they wouldn't know their arse from their elbows...

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (4, Interesting)

Archtech (159117) | about 2 months ago | (#47100317)

The situation seems analogous to that of a journalist and/or photographer reporting on a disaster in which people are hurt or killed. It is often said that they would help more if they dropped their notebooks and cameras and pitched in to help rescuers. But then no one would be doing the presumably useful job of recording events.

The researchers in this case were trying to establish the accuracy of Wikipedia articles. Simultaneously editing would be both a distraction and a conflict of interest - much like moderating and contributing to the same Slashdot thread.

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47100003)

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.

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (2)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 2 months ago | (#47100181)

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: Let's get this out of the way... (3, Interesting)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 months ago | (#47100379)

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.

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100805)

So why are they still a thing? If osteopathy is bunk (and it is) and DOs actually do real medicine instead, why do DOs exist?

Re: Let's get this out of the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100827)

Since you lie about being an MD, why should we buy your diarrhea about DOs?

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (1)

imatter (2749965) | about 2 months ago | (#47099977)

Couldn't find anything about Frosty Piss but... here is a medical Wikipedia article that contains frothy urine http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N... [wikipedia.org] not sure about the accuracy though.

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (4, Informative)

mspohr (589790) | about 2 months ago | (#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

Re:Let's get this out of the way... (4, Informative)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 2 months ago | (#47100097)

Anyone care to guess how many of those "inaccuracies" they cite involve criticisms of quackery like osteopathy?

It's not just medical information.... (2)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 2 months ago | (#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:It's not just medical information.... (3, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 months ago | (#47099813)

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.

Re:It's not just medical information.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099909)

That's bullshit. If you think Britannica is no more trustworthy than Wikipedia, you're an idiot.

Re:It's not just medical information.... (4, Informative)

danlip (737336) | about 2 months ago | (#47100059)

Study: Wikipedia as accurate as Britannica [cnet.com] - published by Nature [nature.com] , not Anonymous Coward.

Re:It's not just medical information.... (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 2 months ago | (#47100277)

Ah... but that's a different kind of study, because you're comparing two things that actually exist. Notice this story is a different type: "90% of wikipedia articles contain errors." OK. But the second part... "your General Practitioner as a more reliable source" is actually entirely outside this study!

If you want to support a conclusion like that, here's what you have to do: have some randomly-selected GP's write wikipedia-like articles, doing no more background research than they would do for a typical patient (i.e. within the space of about 7 minutes). Then do a blinded, comparative quality study between the GP-authored articles and the real wikipedia ones.

That's what all these wikipedia-critiquing studies have in common - implicitly comparing to an ideal that does not exist. (But since everything is flawed, does that mean everything is equally flawed? No!)

Re:It's not just medical information.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100795)

But how did they vote on gay marriage?

Re:It's not just medical information.... (3, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 2 months ago | (#47100055)

Which is why you use Wikipedia as a source aggregator rather than a direct source of correct information.

Re:It's not just medical information.... (5, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:It's not just medical information.... (2)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 2 months ago | (#47100089)

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.

Re: It's not just medical information.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100309)

So does the BBC.

Re:It's not just medical information.... (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 2 months ago | (#47100429)

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.

A openly editable source has errors? (3, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 months ago | (#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%.

Re:A openly editable source has errors? (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47099895)

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.

Re:A openly editable source has errors? (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about 2 months ago | (#47100377)

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 information. Those few avenues that do exist are also limited to readers who are willing to do additional research to vet the reliability of their sources.

When everything is said and done, trust a good doctor. If you're seeking independent medical advice, ensure that you're spending the time to learn enough about medicine so that you aren't being mislead by disproven or inadequately researched alternative medicine. Oh, and spend time researching the sources as well.

But when everything's said and done, I'm not surprised that the "Wikipedia's accuracy is "above 0%." It's not as good as professional resources, but it's nowhere near as bad as some of the stuff pushed by publishing houses.

Academic types eh (1)

PsyMan (2702529) | about 2 months ago | (#47099825)

Too much time reading so called "books" and "Medical Journals" to realise the upsetting truth that nobody on the internets is ever wrong.

Re:Academic types eh (1)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 2 months ago | (#47100117)

"Osteopathy" is NOT academic. Not even close.

Now, combine it with the /. error rate (5, Funny)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | about 2 months ago | (#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...

Re:Now, combine it with the /. error rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100091)

So, the actual error rate of Wikipedia medical articles should be (1-x/100)*90 % shouldnt it?

No. This assumes that Slashdot is wrong in only one direction. In reality errors on Slashdot can go both ways.

Assuming it is actually 90% would lead to the conclusion that /. has a 0% error rate...

No. You can't compute a reliable error rate based on one sample. Learn some statistics.

So in par with (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099845)

the accuracy of medical journals then.

Osteopath cred? (3, Insightful)

Geste (527302) | about 2 months ago | (#47099877)

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

Re:Osteopath cred? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099919)

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.

Re:Osteopath cred? (3, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47100013)

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

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

Stem_Cell_Brad (1847248) | about 2 months ago | (#47100869)

You conflate Osteopathy with Homeopathy, you twit. Doctors of Osteopathy (at least in the US anyways) are essentially the same as MDs.

Re:Osteopath cred? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099933)

Your comment is expected on Slashdot but expresses nothing more than blind prejudice. Presume you belong to that religion called scientism.

Re:Osteopath cred? (4, Insightful)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#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]

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47100031)

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

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

M1FCJ (586251) | about 2 months ago | (#47100307)

A big [Citation Needed] since what you claim is plain old bollocks.

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 months ago | (#47100085)

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 to run a test of any kind, they might have known that, but then, how would they have sold me their Sponsored Drugs?

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 2 months ago | (#47100155)

Doubly so for psychiatrists.

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 months ago | (#47100453)

Never met one.

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

Re:Osteopath cred? (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 months ago | (#47100175)

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.

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 months ago | (#47100495)

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 health to actually, you know, talk to me, maybe run a test or two, rather than try and dope me up and kick me out the door because that's more profitable than actually curing disease. Of course, after changing jobs I can no longer go see this person (because he's no longer in my insurance network), so next time I have an issue it's back to the crap-shoot of, "will my next doc be good like him, or another drug-peddler like all the other ones?" Yay.

So, you know, my opinion might be a bit colored by personal experience. YMMV.

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. I find the whole "first do no harm" bit to be a preferable first priority, myself.

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

lgw (121541) | about 2 months ago | (#47100659)

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

"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.

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 months ago | (#47100693)

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. That's not evidence based but there's definitely a chance it will help you.

But there's direct scientific studies that refute the entire field of Osteopathy. At best it's helpful in the same way scented candles, messages and chiropracty are helpful.

Re:Osteopath cred? (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 2 months ago | (#47099985)

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.

Re:Osteopath cred? (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 months ago | (#47100837)

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.

Re:Osteopath cred? (1)

Jahta (1141213) | about 2 months ago | (#47100327)

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.

The "mistakes" don't make a whole lot of sense. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:The "mistakes" don't make a whole lot of sense. (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 2 months ago | (#47100941)

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 reviewers. It seems everybody on slashdot is always eager to apply the fallacy of genus. What's with the tribal attitude and lack of logical thinking?

The only gripe I have, since they lay everything else out pretty crystal clear for those capable of reading, is that the data isn't provided. Though that's usually just an email away from any researcher. It would be nice to see the severity and importance of the discordances. If they classify the inability to find concordance on the etymology section of diabetes by looking at pubmed, well, that's just sad.

+4 insightful for a load of tripe, welcome to the new slashdot.

BTW, for your edification, next time you'll find all that information if you don't assume the ABSTRACT is the whole paper, try scrolling down a bit.

Note to self: (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 months ago | (#47099887)

Cancel the appointment with Dr Otto Didact, M D, University of Wikipedia.

physicians use wikipedia (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#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.

Re:physicians use wikipedia (1)

Ardyvee (2447206) | about 2 months ago | (#47100005)

And this seems to me the proper use of wikipedia.

Re:physicians use wikipedia (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 months ago | (#47100025)

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.

Re:physicians use wikipedia (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47100103)

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 in a reference pharmacology book. Just like any other major decision, you're foolish if you just look at one resource.

(dis)agreement of paired reviewers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099901)

The much more interesting output of this study is how often the expert reviewers couldn't agree whether an assertion is or is not supported by literature. Kinda hard to conclude whether the wikipedia article is accurate if two experts disagree on about half of its statements' accuracy. Drawing conclusions on data this noisy is in itself something that puts the journal's name in jeopardy (as if it had any in the first place). Wikipedia is far from perfect, but this "peer reviewed article" is even worse.

Re:(dis)agreement of paired reviewers (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 2 months ago | (#47100967)

You read wrong. The problem was with the fact there wasn't too much agreement on WHAT was an assertion, and they provided a logical reason for that, though no data.

What do you expect? (-1, Troll)

xiando (770382) | about 2 months ago | (#47099907)

Full-time paid employees will always win "edit wars" and be able to put themselves in administrator positions on sites like this. This is why most articles on Wikipedia contain propaganda and fiction instead of facts. If evidence that a government/media story is added on Wikipedia then it is quickly removed and also removed from the edit history (many are not aware that the edit history on Wikipedia is as heavily censored as the articles). It is plain obvious that most of what is on Wikipedia is completely wrong, this should not surprise anyone. That the US government and most governments in the "free" western world employ a large number of "internet trolls" has become "public knowledge" the last year but it has been going on since the Internet came about.

And how is everyone else's error rates? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 months ago | (#47099911)

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 implants or any of that sily stuff. Because they're like, you know, infalible.

I read Wikipedia, knowing it's inaccurate. I cross reference and look at multiple other sources like a big boy. I read *everything* knowing that there's inaccuracy somewhere. Sounds like it's time for everybody to grow up. There's no great, all-knowing source of information *anywhere.* No group of wise thoughtful, beard stroking authorities who know all and see all.

It's just us, doing the best we can with the crappy information we're given.

Re:And how is everyone else's error rates? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 months ago | (#47100141)

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 Osteopaths that appear to have their panties all bunched up. The rest of us, not so much.

compare to physician misdiagnosis rate (2)

globaljustin (574257) | about 2 months ago | (#47099917)

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]

Re:compare to physician misdiagnosis rate (-1, Flamebait)

Frosty Piss (770223) | about 2 months ago | (#47099991)

It's difficult to take seriously someone who doesn't understand punctuation and basic grammar.

Re:compare to physician misdiagnosis rate (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 months ago | (#47100169)

It's even more difficult to take someone seriously when they ignore perfectly valid reasoning due to an obsession with mechanical pedantry.

OP makes some damn good points, in case you were too stuck on his lack of punctuation to notice.

Re:compare to physician misdiagnosis rate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100775)

It's even more difficult to take someone seriously when they ignore perfectly valid reasoning due to an obsession with mechanical pedantry.

So says the mechanical pedant...

Re:compare to physician misdiagnosis rate (1)

Wookact (2804191) | about 2 months ago | (#47100957)

It is difficult to take someone with the chosen moniker of "Frosty Piss" seriously. (FTFY)

Re:compare to physician misdiagnosis rate (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 months ago | (#47100209)

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

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

Disregard the percentages (5, Informative)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | about 2 months ago | (#47099953)

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.

Re:Disregard the percentages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100415)

10 conditions out of all the bajillion different ones mentioned on Wikipedia is simply too little

One counterintuitive thing you learn in your first statistics course is that the accuracy depends on the sample size, but not on the population size. So it doesn't matter whether it's 10 out of 100 or 10 out of a bajillion.

to draw any sort of meaningful rule about the quality of them all.

Not true. In this case we can say with 95% certainty that the fraction of them all is at least 60%.

Re:Disregard the percentages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100817)

Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm a programmer, not a statistician), but doesn't that only work if the sampling method is random? They specifically took the ten most expensive-to-treat conditions... Definitely not random.

WebMd (2)

sqorbit (3387991) | about 2 months ago | (#47099963)

I'd be interested to see a similar review of sites such as WebMD. Is this only a Wikipedia issue?

Here's one of the "errors" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47099965)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osteopathy

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. In the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends osteopathy for the treatment of persistent lower back pain. 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.

... because physicians are all always up to date?? (2)

wiswaud (22478) | about 2 months ago | (#47099999)

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 up to date their *teachers* were.
So, yeah, wikipedia might be misleading; it might be out of date in certain places - in many places, even. But i don't necessarily think your physician will be more up to date. And i'm not sure how to fix that, either, because they *should* be!

Re:... because physicians are all always up to dat (1)

Kingkaid (2751527) | about 2 months ago | (#47100133)

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.

not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100009)

The same type of study has been run on webMD several times in the past with similar results. The only difference is that webMD always seems to think you might have cancer.

not surprising (2)

karolgajewski (515082) | about 2 months ago | (#47100449)

It's not Lupus! (for the House fans in the audience)

What? Just the medical articles? Just Wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100027)

HUMANITY has a high error rate.

self-correcting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100051)

When they found the errors, did the reseachers click on the "Edit" button and correct?

I don't think anyone claims that Wikipedia is perfect, but it's fairly straight-forward to fix things. (Unless some ass-hat editor gets in the way and keeps reverting one's changes.)

Compared to? (3, Insightful)

RobinH (124750) | about 2 months ago | (#47100111)

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).

How is your GP more reliable... (1)

ReekRend (843787) | about 2 months ago | (#47100119)

...if they are using Wikipedia as their reference? (or at least 47-70% of them)

Medicine is NOT a science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100127)

It is an art, better crafted by women. Except OB/GYN which of course is better performed by men (if you ask me).

Symptom of a bigger need (pun intended) (0)

Tablizer (95088) | about 2 months ago | (#47100163)

It should be common sense that one should not rely on WikiPedia for accurate medical info. But, there are not many alternatives. It would be nice if the AMA or similar institution created a kind of medical wiki that is only author-able by vetted practitioners.

Each topic could have a "regular Joe" section (tab) for us, and a medical-expert section (tab) for medical professionals with all their glorious lingo.

Why scatter and reinvent such knowledge all over the place? I'm sure putting such together is a lot of work, but it's work that is already being done, just in an uncoordinated way.

WHAT? It hast to be true.... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about 2 months ago | (#47100191)

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 they find on the internet.

If you suspect your Doctor is out running a Google search on "Lower abdominal pain with fever" just because they don't know better, I suggest you get another doctor, one who actually has some training. And if you see some website that tries to tell you that you have malaria because you are running a fever you are stupid if you don't consult a doctor before being treated for it.

Why all the hate on osteopaths? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100221)

Our family doc is a DO, not an MD. She's accepted by my insurance plan, she prescribes appropriate medicines and treatment (not body manipulation) for our family, and IMHO manages my particular health conditions more sanely than our previous family doc, an AAFP board-certified MD. What's more, my spouse (another AAFP board-certified MD) trusts her judgment.

I mean, I know Slashdotters like to label stuff as 'woo' and then jump all over it, but seriously, not all osteopaths are kooks.

Nothing to stop the errors creeping in (4, Informative)

FridayBob (619244) | about 2 months ago | (#47100231)

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.

Crappy sample sizes all around (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about 2 months ago | (#47100273)

>> 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 when they get home, so I could arm him or her with the right information (rather than Wiki's).

Bad article (2)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 2 months ago | (#47100371)

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.

Built on sand (1)

Archtech (159117) | about 2 months ago | (#47100383)

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... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100459)

...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.?

In my experience, Doctors were good until I knew (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 2 months ago | (#47100475)

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 notes.

Write hundreds of prescriptions-- so they all sort of start to blur to gether plus your staff often really screws up your prescriptions. I've had multiple prescriptions doubled in strength, halved in strength, increased or decreased in frequency from what the doctor said in our meeting. For the doubling- I often let it stand since the price was the same and cut the meds in half and then built up an emergency supply. Which was good because several times the insurance company got a bureaucratic burp and there was a 10 to 15 day interruption.

But doctors are generally more accurate at detecting when you have something new. It shows up in the numbers first. And they can filter out a better diagnosis.

Each has its place. It is VERY important to be "patient active". Here's the key example. I had chemo and always checked my settings. A patient with me didn't and they misset or misprescribed his chemo by 100:1. This was something that was 99% curable if handled properly but getting that much chemo didn't kill the cancer and they had to send him home because he couldn't take any more chemo of that type. So he probably died since that was the only chemo that worked.

Trust but verify.

Can the legitmate sources be cited on Wikipedia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47100491)

This research was done by comparing the content on Wikipedia to peer reviewed documents. How many of these documents are available to Wikipedia editors without expensive subscriptions? I agree that proper sources should be cited, but I also think that all these sources should be publicly available.

(Maybe one day I should actually create a Slashdot account ...)

I am a physician... (4, Interesting)

tpjunkie (911544) | about 2 months ago | (#47100619)

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.
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