Wednesday, 8 April 2009

About "Medpedia"

Just checked out a relatively new wiki called "Medpedia". This is a highly controlled yet global wiki acting as an encyclopedia for medical concepts (such as drugs, conditions, anatomical terms, tests, etc.) for use by anyone from medical professionals to health care consumers (articles having tabs for both "plain english" and "clinical" versions). It is still in the development or beta stage and will be for a while, as projects like this must and ought to be.

It has a seemingly reasonable search function from my few tests, listing title keyword hits first then those from the article text. It's difficult to determine how effective it is at this time, given that there are so few entries written so far (I estimate only about 1700). To aid searching, there is also an "All Articles" display that lists all articles (duh) in alphabetical order.

From what I can see, the content is excellent, each article providing a wealth of information in a common format (recognizable to anyone who uses Wikipedia), organized into useful categories. For example, in the broad concept article for "Cancer" there is a glossary of related terms to help the user understand the subject better and to link them to other articles that may be helpful. Drug entries have the usual necessary subcategories such as other names, how it's to be taken, risks, and alternatives.

I have two problems with this otherwise exceptional tool (and project). Firstly, not all finished articles have what I would consider sufficient references to support the content. Some have dozens of excellent linked citations (such as the Plain English article for "Aspirin" but some have one citation or nothing listed under references. Hopefully, this will be remedied as the site grows.

The other issue I have has to do with the drug information. More than any other medical information, drug monographs are subject to confusion, rapid change and bias from interested parties. Although the articles about various pharmaceuticals are given as much scrutiny as all other content in this site, I'm more willing to trust the collective information about them from such texts as "DrugPoints" (formerly the USPDI), Martindale's Drug Reference, and even the CPS. I would think that a comprehensive reference for drug information would at least contain a mention of these resources.

So go and check out Medpedia for yourself. Tell me what YOU think about it.

(This entry was also written for BrackenBlog, the somewhat internal blog for the Bracken Health Sciences Library at Queen's University.)

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