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  • Wikipedia Medical Information Popular But Often Wrong

    When it comes to medical information, Wikipedia's popularity may be exceeded only by its inaccuracy.

    A new study has found that among Wikipedia entries on the most costly conditions, 90% contained errors—a problem made even more troubling given the website's popularity generally, and the fact that 47% to 70% of physicians and medical students admit to using it as a reference.

    In the May issue of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (.pdf), authors of the study write that "most Wikipedia articles on the 10 most costly conditions in the United States contained assertions that are inconsistent with peer-reviewed sources," and that "these assertions on Wikipedia represent factual errors."

    For the study, authors identified Wikipedia articles addressing heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, trauma-related disorders (concussion), osteoarthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, diabetes, back problems, and hyperlipidemia. Two reviewers—internal medicine residents or rotating interns—then read each article, identified all assertions made in the article, and verified the accuracy of the assertion by finding concordance in peer-reviewed resources.

    In the end, reviewers identified "statistically significant discordance" between the Wikipedia articles and the peer-reviewed sources in all areas except concussion. Authors were unsure why the concussion entry withstood scrutiny, other than to speculate on the possibility that "the contributors to this particular article were more expert."

    In an editorial (.pdf) accompanying the article, Lori Fitterling, MLS, reference librarian for the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, writes that the study "adds credence to the message librarians have heralded: medical professionals should be educated about and engaged in the critical analysis of online information. In other words, information literacy should provide a basis for evidence-based practice."

    "Would I want my physician to consult Wikipedia about my condition? No," Fitterling writes. "Physicians and medical students, spend your time consulting a credible, peer-reviewed, evidence-based resource. And if you do not know how to do this, let your reference librarian teach you."

    APTA is actively engaged in building the infrastructure that can connect physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs) with accurate peer-reviewed information to inform evidence-based practice through its PTNow website. Additionally, the association offers the extensive—and recently revamped—MoveForwardPT.com website that provides timely and accurate health information to consumers.

    Both PTNow.org and MoveForwardPT.com have editorial boards that guide and review content, and APTA’s lead librarian provides assistance to help members optimize their searching experience of the PTNow ArticleSearch.

    Research-related stories featured in News Now are intended to highlight a topic of interest only and do not constitute an endorsement by APTA. For synthesized research and evidence-based practice information, visit the association's PTNow website.

    Move Forward Radio Calls for Patient Stories

    Physical therapists watch incredible patient success stories unfold every day. Now it’s time to share those stories with a wider audience.

    APTA is seeking current or former physical therapy patients and clients to share their stories for upcoming episodes of Move Forward Radio, APTA’s official consumer-oriented radio show and podcast.

    Do you know of an inspirational physical therapy success story? E-mail Katie Kissal with basic details of the patient’s condition and age during treatment, as well as a brief description of the patient’s story (the patient’s condition before physical therapy and afterward). Do not include in the e-mail your patient’s name or any other identifiable information that would violate HIPAA’s patient privacy protections.

    Also, do not use the comments section of this post to volunteer for this opportunity.

    In the past, Move Forward Radio has shared the stories of a school teacher who found relief through dry needling, a dentist who reduced his dependency on pain medication for arthritis of the neck, and a personal trainer who learned to run again after nearly losing her foot in a water skiing accident, among others. Current LPGA star Natalie Gulbis and former NFL lineman Don Davey also discussed their experiences with physical therapy.

    If your suggested patient story is selected, APTA staff will contact you to arrange an interview with you and your patient. The story may also be used for a print version of "Patient Stories," also featured on MoveForwardPT.com.

    Move Forward Radio airs approximately twice a month. Episodes are featured and archived at MoveForwardPT.com, APTA's official consumer information website, and can be streamed online via Blog Talk Radio or downloaded as podcasts via iTunes.

    PTNow Blog: Are We There Yet?

    When it comes to drawing inferences for clinical practice, research design can really be an obstacle. That's the issue explored in the most recent PTNow blog post.

    The post looks at research from the Netherlands that seeks to identify categories of interventions that are effective in addressing lumbopelvic pain during pregnancy. And although the study's authors may believe that they have arrived at a basis for some standardization, other experts believe that research to date hasn't included enough direct comparison among individual approaches to make any definitive recommendations.

    What's your opinion? Read the PTNow blog and join the conversation.