What did Orson Welles' 1938 radio drama "War of the Worlds" have in common with today's encyclopedic website Wikipedia? Too many people believed every word. Welles gave people notice that the tale was pure fiction, and Wikipedia has never claimed to be more than a website (often wonderful) with user-generated and -curated articles. Nonetheless, as many as 150 million folks per month use Wikipedia's 20,000 medical articles for health info, when they should not be the last word in medical advice. A new study compared info in Wiki's medical articles to facts from peer-reviewed medical journals: 90 percent contained false or misleading information!
Examining entries for heart disease, cancer, mental illness, concussion, osteoarthritis, respiratory conditions, hypertension, diabetes, back problems and elevated cholesterol, reviewers spotted mistakes that could lead you to treat yourself incorrectly or pass along faulty info to your doc.
Another study found the online Medscape Drug Reference provided answers to 82.5 percent of researchers' questions about medications; Wikipedia answered only 40 percent - and often had missing or incorrect info on dosages, interactions and contraindications.
So, what's the smartest way to use the Internet for health info? Stick with sites with recognized medical experts who curate the info (like our own websites: doctoroz.com, sharecare.com, clevelandclinic.org), those affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (health.nih.gov) and other dot-gov sites, established medical institutions and medical journals. On Wikipedia: Look at an article's footnotes to see if they're credible; if they are, use that article's info for hints on what to search for on the more reliable sites. Then talk to your doc.
© King Features Syndicate