Medical Wikis Dedicated to Clinical Practice: A Systematic Review

December 06, 2016 by Alexandre Brulet, Guy Llorca, Laurent Letrilliart

Access this Publication
Background: Wikis may give clinician communities the opportunity to build knowledge relevant to their practice. The only previous study reviewing a set of health-related wikis, without specification of purpose or audience, globally showed a poor reliability. Objective: Our aim was to review medical wiki websites dedicated to clinical practices. Methods: We used Google in ten languages, PubMed, Embase, Lilacs, and Web of Science to identify websites. The review included wiki sites, accessible and operating, having a topic relevant for clinical medicine, targeting physicians or medical students. Wikis were described according to their purposes, platform, management, information framework, contributions, content, and activity. Purposes were classified as “encyclopedic” or “non-encyclopedic”. The information framework quality was assessed based on the Health On the Net (HONcode) principles for collaborative websites, with additional criteria related to users’ transparency and editorial policy. From a sample of five articles per wikis, we assessed the readability using the Flesch test and compared articles according to the wikis’ main purpose. Annual editorial activities were estimated using the Google engine. Results: Among 25 wikis included, 11 aimed at building an encyclopedia, five a textbook, three lessons, two oncology protocols, one a single article, and three at reporting clinical cases. Sixteen wikis were specialized with specific themes or disciplines. Fifteen wikis were using MediaWiki software as-is, three were hosted by online wiki farms, and seven were purpose-built. Except for one MediaWiki-based site, only purpose-built platforms managed detailed user disclosures. The owners were ten organizations, six individuals, four private companies, two universities, two scientific societies, and one unknown. Among 21 open communities, 10 required users’ credentials to give editing rights. The median information framework quality score was 6 out of 16 (range 0-15). Beyond this score, only one wiki had standardized peer-reviews. Physicians contributed to 22 wikis, medical learners to nine, and lay persons to four. Among 116 sampled articles, those from encyclopedic wikis had more videos, pictures, and external resources, whereas others had more posology details and better readability. The median creation year was 2007 (1997-2011), the median number of content pages was 620.5 (3-98,039), the median of revisions per article was 17.7 (3.6-180.5) and 0.015 of talk pages per article (0-0.42). Five wikis were particularly active, whereas six were declining. Two wikis have been discontinued after the completion of the study. Conclusions: The 25 medical wikis we studied present various limitations in their format, management, and collaborative features. Professional medical wikis may be improved by using clinical cases, developing more detailed transparency and editorial policies, and involving postgraduate and continuing medical education learners.