The World Wide Web holds in itself an extremely vast collection of information that has something to offer no matter how strange a query is. While the easy availability of information is certainly a good thing, it does have its side-effects as one study recently found out.
The study, published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association (JAOA), says that netizens should not turn to the internet to self diagnose medical conditions because most of its information is full of errors. To be more specific, the study noted that famous online compendium Wikipedia's medical content has nine out of its 10 entries totally wrong.
It means that if one establishes a certain medical condition by matching symptoms with what's written on Wikipedia, there's a good chance he or she might be their own grave. The news may come as a huge shock to an entire generation that has grown up taking every word on Wiki as either the word of god or at least a unanimously accepted fact.
While seeking professional help is always the best option, offline material for self diagnosis or medication is still more reliable than Wikipedia. This is because of the website's unique way of handling their content, which allows any user to edit content or add ideas no matter how unsuitable he is for that work.
In addition to the sick and injured, another group that could be doing themselves major disservice by using online information are researchers themselves.
"Researchers should not use [Wikipedia] as a primary resource because those articles do not go through the same peer-review process as medical journals," said the research's lead author Robert Hasty of Campbell University. "The best resource when looking for a diagnosis is to speak with your physician, who can take into account your medical history and other factors to determine the best course of treatment."
This isn't the first time that Wikipedia's content has been checked for accuracy by an independent body. Over the years, numerous tests have been conducted on the site and it generally did well in most of them, as noted LiveScience.com.
The errors that the new research has identified are of minor nature, but Hasty and his team claims that their clinical impact could be huge. Hence, the next time you have chest pain or a weird mole pops up on your skin, rush to your doctor instead of looking it up online.