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Letters to the Editor  |   October 2014
Wikipedia vs Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions–I
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Cardiovascular Disorders / Neuromusculoskeletal Disorders / Psychiatry / Pulmonary Disorders
Letters to the Editor   |   October 2014
Wikipedia vs Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions–I
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, October 2014, Vol. 114, 761. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2014.146
The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, October 2014, Vol. 114, 761. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2014.146
To the Editor: 
In their May article in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, “Wikipedia vs Peer-Reviewed Medical Literature for Information About the 10 Most Costly Medical Conditions,” Hasty et al1 attempted to evaluate the accuracy of medical articles in Wikipedia, focusing on the 10 most costly medical conditions in the United States. The researchers reported a statistically significant difference in the assertions (ie, “statements of fact”) presented in Wikipedia compared with the peer-reviewed literature for 9 of the 10 costliest conditions they identified. They concluded that the results of their study “cast serious doubt on Wikipedia's authority as a medical reference repository.”1 Unfortunately, the study has several flaws and limitations. Some of these were identified by the authors; however, we believe the most serious ones were overlooked. 
First, the reviewers only looked at 1 Wikipedia article for each condition, yet for many conditions there may be several articles available but under slightly different headings. In our research on the topic, we found more than 1 relevant Wikipedia entry for most of the health-related topics that we looked at.2 
Second, it seems that Hasty et al1 had no firm criteria for selecting either the Wikipedia or the peer-reviewed articles. Several times the reviewers assessed Wikipedia topics that were only weakly related to the ones they were supposed to assess. For example, for the categories of cancer, mental disorders, and heart disease, they used Wikipedia articles on lung cancer, depression, and coronary artery disease, respectively. Likewise, the selection of the peer-reviewed articles was left up to the reviewers; the quality of the “standard” against which Wikipedia was compared could itself be called into question. 
Because the research described in this study is fraught with so many methodologic errors, we believe the results cannot be interpreted with any confidence. In particular, we challenge the authors' key conclusion that their study provides evidence that most Wikipedia articles on the 10 medical conditions they included contain “many errors.” 
References
Hasty RT, Garbalosa RC, Barbato VAet al. Wikipedia vs peer-reviewed medical literature for information about the 10 most costly medical conditions. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2014;114(5):368-373. doi:10.7556/jaoa.2014.035. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
Temple NJ, Fraser J. How accurate are Wikipedia articles in health, nutrition, and medicine? Can J Inform Library Sci. 2014;38(1):37-52.