Millions of people go online each year to get health information. But how do they decide which websites have accurate and easy to understand information? And how can Choosing Wisely®play a role?
“Some of the most important items to look for in online health information are the source, how current the information is, how well-vetted it is and that it’s unbiased,” said David Ansley, Senior Analyst in Health Product Development at Consumer Reports.
To help ensure patients receive accurate health care information, Consumer Reports contributes to one of the most widely used sources on the Internet—Wikipedia. Studies have shown Wikipedia is a source for the majority of people seeking health information online. One study, entitled “Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter?,” determined Wikipedia appeared in the first 10 search results for health information 70% of the time. And that was five years ago.
Because of Wikipedia’s ubiquity, Consumer Reports has engaged a Wikipedian-in-Residence staff person to lead the effort to include Choosing Wisely information in relevant articles and ensure its accuracy. In 2013 alone there were more than 39 million page views of Wikipedia articles that contained Choosing Wisely information and the specialty society recommendations.
However, a recent piece in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association cast doubt on the accuracy of health information in Wikipedia articles, claiming that when compared to peer-reviewed journal articles, they contained many errors and should be used with caution.
Lane Rasberry, Consumer Reports’ Wikipedian-in-Residence, acknowledges certain quality issues can arise within Wikipedia content because of its fundamental nature as a volunteer-run open source platform that anyone can edit.
Understanding the high traffic Wikipedia receives from patients seeking information, Mr. Rasberry works to ensure the Choosing Wisely articles are accurate by monitoring any changes on a daily basis, and conducting a more thorough review of all articles every three months.
“Wikipedia has excellent reach, but we know there are sometimes questions about the accuracy of articles. This contrasts to other websites that can have excellent quality, but have outreach problems,” said Mr. Rasberry. “Because anyone can post information to any Wikipedia article, occasionally there are instances where users are in disagreement about the accuracy or validity of information. The Wikipedia community monitors these edits and ensures they are backed with citations to reliable sources, such as the Choosing Wisely recommendations from the specialty societies. This is a transparent process and these changes are documented within each article.”
In addition to educating consumers about Choosing Wisely through Wikipedia, Consumer Reports also makes their consumer-facing materials publicly available on their ConsumerHealthChoices.org site. They also work closely with the 21Choosing Wisely grantees and 28 consumer partners, such as AARP, the National Business Group on Health and The Leapfrog Group to disseminate information, both online and through other traditional channels.