Like it or not, Wikipedia is emerging as a leading source of medical content. In fact, patients and physicians now turn more often to Wikipedia for health information than to any other source, according to a new report from IMS Health. If you’re skeptical, try searching any health topic online: Wikipedia articles routinely appear atop the results pages on Google and other search engines.
As Wikipedia grows in popularity, many experts remain wary of medical content posted there. A recent New York Times article about how Wikipedia is slow to adapt to mobile technology only adds to concerns about the frequency of updates to information provided by the site. Some communications firms offer Wikipedia updates as a service to their clients. As Steve Barrett observed in PR Week, “a responsible and proactive PR industry that respects Wikipedia’s guidelines can be a benefit to the site.”
We couldn’t agree more. Working with experts, we often propose edits and updates to relevant Wikipedia articles that address specific diseases, companies or medicines. By offering these suggestions, we perform a valuable service not only to our clients, but to anyone who visits those Wikipedia pages.
Given the alarming profusion of inaccurate and self-serving information across the Web, and the dwindling number of Wikipedia editors, communications professionals have nothing to apologize for in working to improve Wikipedia content. Providing accurate, balanced and well-referenced information can help people make more informed opinions and decisions about their health.