Notes on Medpedia’s changes

I first wrote about Medpedia in January.

I noted in my post that Medpedia did not seem to specify what would qualify an applicant to become a contributor. Medpedia’s Angela Simmons addressed this in the comments:

Anyone with medical and health knowledge is encouraged to apply to become a Contributor. It is not a requirement that you have medical credentials; however, it is important that you are passionate and knowledgeable about at least one topic related to medicine, health and the body.

My concern here is that clinicians should not use an information resource built by people who are not qualified health professionals. Passion is not, in my view, a sufficient qualification.

I also asked Angela if Medpedia was intended to be a resource for professionals (like UpToDate) or a resource for healthcare consumers (like MedlinePlus). Angela replied:

Initially, Medpedia will be a resource for the general public. Over time, with 1000’s of clinicians and researchers on the site, discussing what should be on the main pages, Medpedia will also become a resource for medical professionals, health educators, and medical schools.

This did not seem promising to me. I don’t believe that a single article on a topic can appropriately serve both healthcare professionals and healthcare consumers- their needs are usually quite different.

Medpedia seems to have addressed some of these concerns since that time. Their index page now only invites “Medical Professionals” to “Apply to be a Member, ” and the FAQ says:

There are multiple ways of contributing. If you are an MD or PhD in the biomedical field, you can apply to become an Editor and make changes directly to Medpedia articles (See more below). If you are anyone else, you can use the “Make a suggestion” link at the top of any page to make a suggestion for that page. An approved Editor will review and potentially add your suggestion.

Also interesting to note that Medpedia will be advertising-supported (neither Ganfyd nor AskDrWiki are ad-supported. AskDrWiki is a non-profit). Again from the FAQ:

To support the costs of operation in the future, non-invasive, text-based advertising will be shown on the Medpedia website through third-party ad networks such as Google’s AdSense or Healthline’s third party ad service. Next to these ads on the page will be a link “Flag inappropriate ads” so that the community can keep the ads on the site clean and useful.

Then there’s the question of how reliable the content will be. The FAQ says:

The seed content available on Medpedia at launch is up to date, accurate, and provided by reputable sources. After launch at the end of 2008, once Editors start making edits and adding new pages to the seed content, it is possible, and even likely that there will be mistakes and language that is unclear. This is the nature of a collaborative wiki.

If the site is meant to be used by healthcare professionals, I’d strongly recommend a routine (Monthy? Quarterly?) review of each article by an admin to make sure the content is accurate and up-to-date. To say “it can’t be kept reliable because it is a wiki” is, in my thinking, a cop-out. After all, Medpedia’s own FAQ says the site is meant to be “…a platform to share the most up-to-date medical knowledge.” If the academic institutions listed on the front page of Medpedia wish to avoid embarrassment, I’d reccommend that they dedicate some time of their healthcare experts to regular review of articles.

(Just a guess, but) I think Medpedia’s content will end up focusing mostly on the information needs of healthcare consumers. In that sense, I think it’ll resemble

Criticism aside, here are some things about Medpedia that I DO like:

  • Editors/contributors must be qualified health professionals
  • Editors/contributors cannot be anonymous
  • Content is freely usable under a GNU Free Documentation License

What do you think? Do you anticipate other problems I may have missed? Maybe you think I’m being too critical? Share your thoughts in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Notes on Medpedia’s changes

  1. Coincidentally, I was interviewed this morning by a reporter from the Chronicle of Higher Ed for a story on medpedia that she expects will run sometime this month. What I told her was that I thought it was a very interesting and worthwhile experiment, with a lot of potential, but that maintaining objectivity, currency, and clear sourcing would be critical issues. The first question that she asked me was “is it necessary” and we ended up talking quite a bit about MedlinePlus. I said I thought that it’d take awhile before medpedia could become as comprehensive and useful as that source but I’d be happy to see them give it a try.

    I’m not too bothered by the advertising-supported angle, depending on how it’s handled, but that’s definitely something to keep an eye on.

    Incidentally, there is a (note the “i” between the “d” and “p”) that’s already up and that fails all the usual tests for evaluating a good health-related website. There’s bound to be some confusion between the two, unfortunately.

  2. David, I agree with everyone of your concerns. Scott said it much better than I could though.

    Another one to keep an eye on is Google’s Knol. It too requires little in terms of authorship credentials. Authors can “Verfiy” themselves by submitting their credit card or phone number.

  3. Pingback: blog.e-healthgr | Medpedia, ιατρική εγκυκλοπαίδεια τύπου wikipedia