Cleveland Plain Dealer on Medical Wikis (again)

Brie Zeltner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer contacted me weeks ago because they were planning on doing a follow-up to their previous article about AskDrWiki.

Their follow-up is here.

Here’s what they say about our interview in the article:

Critics of medical wikis have praised AskDrWiki for publishing an editorial policy, making a list of its editors and their credentials available on the site, and responding promptly to constructive criticism about the site’s design.

David Rothman, a medical librarian who has warned against relying on wikis for medical information, said AskDrWiki has made great strides in the past eight months. “It certainly is a safer source of medical information than it was,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding that the site is still meant as a resource for medical professionals.

Here’s the brief interview in its entirety:

In your opinion, has the web site improved since we published our article? In what ways? Is it a safe source of medical information right now?

They’ve written and posted an editorial policy- that’s a great step. It is certainly a safer source of medical information than it was, but it is important to note that it is meant as a resource for medical professionals. Healthcare consumers looking for health information would probably be better served by visiting MedlinePlus, a site maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

Do you still have reservations about medical wikis? About this one in particular? What are its greatest assets?
I absolutely have reservations about any source of healthcare information with inadequate editorial controls. AskDrWiki has greatly improved in this regard.

Do you think a site like this can ever be as reliable as a textbook or a medical library?
It is a huge mistake to compare any single resource to a medical library. A medical textbook is probably about as reliable as its editors and policies, so with editors and policies on par with those of a textbook, there’s no reason why a medical wiki can’t be made a reliable and trustworthy source.

What do you recommend to make the site a safer and more reliable source of information?
I’ve already made all the recommendations I have to offer. If I think of any others, I’ll pester Dr. Civello with them.

Do you keep in contact with AskDrWiki’s editors about the site?
We have traded a few emails. We have a number of common interests and goals.

I also added:

Brie, you may want to note in your article that the guys at AskDrWiki must be on to something because Elsevier, one of the biggest names in medical publishing, has started their own medical wiki. I posted some details here.

This may indicate that established publishers see sites like AskDrWiki as a real threat to their business.

I’d also like add now that it is great to see that AskDrWiki has achieved 501(c)(3) (not-for-profit) status. Congratulations and wishes for continued growth to Dr. Civello, Dr. Jefferson and all others who’re working to expand and improve this project.

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