Ask Dr Wiki vs medicine in Wikipedia

Dr. Brian Jefferson and Dr. Ken Civello have sent me kind letters, gave permission to edit Ask Dr Wiki and asked me to tell them my opinion from a point of view of a Wikipedia editor. I’d like to compare these wikis, to point out their differences and find out how we could work together.

Let’s see the mission statement of AskDrWiki:

Dr Wiki is a collaborative medical website made by physicians for physicians, medical students, and healthcare providers. Its purpose is to serve as a online repository of medical information that can be accessed by anyone. Since your lab coat is only so big and you may forget everything you learned last month you need an online repository to store important facts, differentials, figures and other medical information.

I love this as we know exactly that Wikipedia is made for laypeople. We mustn’t include too deep medical train of thoughts even if it’s important regarding the content of an article (just see the genetics part of Coeliac disease). That’s why Ask Dr Wiki could fill this gap with real medical pieces of information. A video of an angiography isn’t essential in a Wikipedia article, but Ask Dr Wiki can collect many of them without causing any problem and also helping physicians, medstudents to learn more.


Ken Civello asked me whether a medical wiki created by experts could be more reliable than Wikipedia’s medical articles. Well, I don’t think so. Yes, of course, it’d be more reliable, but it’s not the point. Wikipedia’s medical entries are created and maintained by about a hundred editors (just some of them are physicians, academics). If those articles are well-referenced, then those should be reliable. It’s not a question of credentials, but references. Wikipedia articles must contain relevant information for laypeople.

Ask Dr Wiki could be the main online repository for physicians, residents and medical students. That’s how I see this question. Let’s take a look at what I’d change or do in order to improve this great idea (some of them will be minor, others will be major suggestions):

  • Better logo
  • The most important part: many more editors. Now, AskDrWiki has 43 users (3 users are already blocked vandals) and only 18 were granted permission to become real editors.
  • I’d suggest a Help namespace to be able to differentiate the help pages from the articles themselves.
  • I know that it was going to become a cardiology wiki, but now they have new goals, just like starting new specialties. Like that, AskDrWiki could get hundreds of medical editors.
  • The recent changes special page must be shown on the main page. It helps readers and users to keep track with the changes. That page presents the working rate of a wiki.
  • I’d like to see a proper page about the required credentials to know what we have to do to be able to edit.
  • The blog is interesting too but it’s not part of the medical blogosphere. A blog with images and topics like this one should play a bigger role in the medical blogosphere (Grand rounds submissions, links, Technorati rankings, etc.).
  • You could also use Wikipedia’s manuel of style (created for medicine-related articles) to create similarly constructed articles.

Medical Barnstar of Wikipedia

That’s all. I’m really thankful to Kenny Civello M.D., M.P.H, Shane Bailey M.D., Mike McWilliams M.D. at Cleveland Clinic Electrophysiology and Brian Jefferson M.D at Cleveland Clinic Interventional Cardiology for constructing this wiki and for their goals. They’re on the first part of the way, but I belive this is a good way. And so, Ask Dr Wiki could become the collective online memory for physicians, fellows, residents, and medical students.