In case you needed more proof that the Internet is a terrible, no good, very bad place to go for medical information, scientific research has now officially confirmed it.
A new study states nine out of 10 Wikipedia entries on the U.S.’s costliest medical conditions contain “many” factual errors, the BBC reports. In other words, you should definitely stop relying on the Internet for information on all your gross health concerns.
To begin, the researchers compiled the Wikipedia entries for the top 10 most costly medical conditions in the U.S., in terms of public and private expenditure (coronary artery disease, lung cancer, major depressive disorder, osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, back pain and hyperlipidemia).
Then they had investigators review each article, determining whether the statements of fact in each article matched up with information found in legit, peer-reviewed sources.
“Most Wikipedia articles representing the 10 most costly medical conditions in the United States contain many errors when checked against standard peer-reviewed sources,” the researchers concluded. “Caution should be used when using Wikipedia to answer questions regarding patient care.”
While it’s not exactly news that Wikipedia isn’t a bastion of factual accuracy, the findings are still troubling. As the study notes, prior research suggests that up to 70 percent of physicians and medical students admit to using Wikipedia as a reference. That means talking to a real-life, medical school-education doctor isn’t even a foolproof means of getting reliable health information. Cool.
We never thought we’d say it, but WebMD is looking pretty good right about now.