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Doctors using Wikipedia? Say it isn't so

When you think you're sick, do you go online to look up your symptoms to see what medical condition you may have? Many people in Arizona use Wikipedia and other websites to check their symptoms. While this is a common behavior by patients, it may surprise many people to learn that many doctors also use Wikipedia to help diagnose patients.

A new study found that doctors are using Wikipedia to research and diagnose their patients' medical conditions. This is very dangerous because the researchers also reported that many entries on Wikipedia are inaccurate, which could lead to diagnostic errors. 

The study found that common medical conditions like heart disease, lung cancer and diabetes contained many errors in their descriptions on Wikipedia. If doctors are consulting these entries when trying to diagnose a patient's condition, they may end up misdiagnosing the medical condition or failing to diagnose the condition. 

The researchers said that if common medical conditions contain errors on Wikipedia, less-common diseases probably have errors and inaccuracies that could lead to misdiagnosis and other types of negligence. 

Doctors are supposed to monitor and research their patients' conditions to provide an accurate diagnosis. The finding that doctors are relying on Wikipedia for help in diagnosing medical conditions is very troubling. Doctors should not be using Wikipedia to research health conditions, especially conditions that could be life-threatening. When doctors use Wikipedia, they may make diagnostic errors or other medical mistakes that could lead to serious complications and even death. 

Patients should be aware of the risk of diagnostic errors. Patients who think their doctor may have misdiagnosed their medical condition or think their doctor has made other errors should discuss their condition with their physician and think about consulting a new doctor. 

Source: Prevention, "Your Doctor's Getting Her Health Info From... Wikipedia?" Markham Heid, May 2014

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