Doctors Shouldn't Consult Wikipedia

Friday, 31 Jan 2014 10:11 AM

By Michael Reagan

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Most of us have been in this situation: You visit the doctor’s office. Something is wrong but no one is quite sure what it is. Your wife is tired of you moping around the house and complaining. This is why you’re now sitting in your BVDs hoping the doctor can figure out what’s wrong and make it go away.

The doctor asks a few questions, checks his watch, and says he’ll be right back. Up until recently I was sure my doctor was calling the National Institute of Health, online with the Mayo Clinic or sending a quick text to Johns Hopkins to get to the bottom of this Reagan’s problem.

Now I know there’s a good chance he was checking Wikipedia.

Reporter Benjamin Fearnow writes “Wikipedia is the single leading source of healthcare information for both providers and patients, with 50 percent of physicians reporting that they’ve consulted the community-edited, online encyclopedia for information on health conditions.”

Even worse, according to statistics from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, “Serious illnesses, especially less common ones, are among the most frequently searched topics by English-language users.”

Frankly, I don’t want the family veterinarian checking with Wikipedia first, much less a people doctor.

I certainly don’t mind if an herbalist, aesthetician, or Wiccan checks their diagnosis with Wikipedia — just like I don’t object to their buying supplies at Whole Foods — but when the MDs are getting their second opinions from a source where information is posted by writers who “have no credential checks” I begin to feel like someone just told me if I like my health insurance policy I can keep it.

And the worst part is I can’t think of a tactful way to ask the doctor where he got the information when he comes back with an answer. Somehow casually remarking, “Say didn’t I read that on Wikipedia?” after learning you have rickets is probably going to do more harm than good.

I think the only solution is to fight fire with fire.

The next time I feel like it’s time for a visit to the doctor, I’m going to consult Wikipedia before I enter the office. Then during the consultation I will admit that I’ve thoroughly researched my symptoms on Wikipedia and I’ve either found a diagnosis and want a second opinion or I’ll tell him that Wiki was stumped and I hope he can find another resource with better information.

Since doctors would rather have lunch with Kathleen Sebelius than admit a patient knows what he’s talking about, I’m reasonably sure he’ll be consulting a resource other than Wikipedia for this particular diagnosis.

Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan. He is president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation and chairman of the League of American Voters. Mike is an in-demand speaker with Premiere. Read more reports from Michael Reagan — Go Here Now.

© Mike Reagan

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