Thursday, May 10, 2007

E-Medicine - Med-Wikis and Ed-Quickies

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know aboutMedicine – Quick!

Four cardiology fellows at the Cleveland Clinic recently launched a Web site on a platform they believe could be the medical textbook of the future – the wiki.

A wiki, which means “fast” in Hawaiian, is an open-source web site, built on the wisdom- of- crowds theory. Anyone can add, remove, edit, or change content to make it better.”

Pamela Lewis Dalton, American Medical News, May 7, 2007

I can spot innovative winners.
will be a winner. Predicting as a winner doesn’t take skill. Med-Wikis are a sign of the times, demand for quick and paperless information. The talent to edit well and quickly, or Ed-Quickie, makes Med-Wikis credible.

The model on which AskDrWiki was fashioned, Wikipedia, the “free encyclopedia,” has succeeded hugely. But it’s controversial. It doesn’t rely on fixed content shaped by eminence grise, selected experts who usually write encyclopedia entries. Authorities writing entries are the traditional model of paper-based encyclopedias.

The history of Wikipedia, as written by Wikipedia, is:

Wikipedia,a project to produce a free content encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone, formally began on 15 January 2001 as a complement to the similar, but expert-written, Nupedia project. It has since replaced Nupedia, growing to become a large global project. As of 2007, it includes millions of articles and pages worldwide, and content from hundreds of thousands of contributors.”

Wikipedia rests upon the “wisdom-of-crowds” theory, again according to Wikipedia, is:

The Wisdom of Crowds, Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, first published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group.”

Med-Wikis may threaten, even replace, paper medical textbooks. The health care world is moving very fast, and doctors want their information quick, even if it may not be authoritatively endorsed by experts in the academic medical establishment.

Med-Wikis are moving fast to blunt criticism of less than optimal contents. They are addressing errors or flaws by setting up credentialing processes for contributors. According to David Rothman, an information specialist at Community General Hospital Medical Library in Syracuse, a wiki watcher who has set up his own blog,, to track wiki blogs,

“A medical wiki with good editorial policies and vetted contributors may soon contain information of quality similar to an established medical journal of textbook.”

Med-Wikis have disadvantages. You have to be tethered to a desktop computer or carry a laptop to view them, and it’s difficult to take them to the bathroom or bedroom to view, unless, of course, you’re part of the wireless web.

The cofounders or, Drs. Brian Jefferson and Kenneth Civello who co-created their web site with Drs. Shane Bailey and Mike McWilliams, are optimistic. Drs. Civello and Jefferson think wikis will gain favor over textbooks although there’s a place for both.,
which first focused on cardiology and electrophysiology, is already expanding to cover other specialties – dermatology, vascular medicine, endocrinology, hematology, infectious disease, musculoskeletal and connective tissue, nephrology, oncology, pulmonology, rheumatology, vascular surgery, and specialties dealing with images in radiology, cardiology, and peripheral vascular disease.

In a society and medical world enraptured by instant access to a more vibrant up-to-date conversations and encyclopedic knowledge, Med- Wikis are good things and will catch on. In a sense, wikis blend blogs and interactive web sites. Both feature contemporaneous individualistic. Wikis may be more controlled and less opinionated. Both represent new media outlets of a new culture. As Marshall McLuhan, the prophet of pop-culture and now medical culture, said, “The medium is the message.” Wiki messages are visages of the present and presages of the future.

I close with a limerick,

There once was a dermatologist who consulted a wiki,
About a strange, exotic, mysterious cutaneous hickey.
She knew, of course, the wiki would be contemporaneous,
Relevant, extemporaneous, spontaneous but not extraneous,
Even though the source was not from the almighty picky.


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