Stepping Foot in Wikipedia 1

Have you ever wondered how various disease conditions are managed in different regions of the world? From prevalence rate to the treatment regimens used, the standards by which each disease state is tackled and viewed upon can vary quite significantly from region to region.

Photo courtesy of the World Bank Photo Collection

Surfacing this sort of information can take some time, unless you are currently living within the respective region in question; what is the most readily used medication to treat hypertension in Scotland?

That’s where the power of the crowd can help. Who better to help surface this sort of information than the people who are on the ground level, locally, within that region? One could envision a regional standards of care knowledge map to look similar to the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, but on a global scale.

Speaking of ground level engagement, Wikimedia recently launched WikiVoyage, a project that provides free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable world-wide travel information. Imagine applying the notion of regionalized health information to the WikiVoyage model.

Having the constructs to support surfacing regionalized information, I’ve chosen Wikipedia to experiment with in my endeavors. Many see Wikipedia solely as an encyclopedia to gain information but what many do not know is the crowd of volunteer Wikipedians working diligently on projects behind the scenes to maintain the information that reaches the top search results in your queried search.

As depicted in my previous blog post, Wikipedia has demonstrated sustainability and has the constructs, including its representation of over 260 languages, to support global knowledge generation around regional standards of care; of course the information needs to be legitimized using proper reliable resources. And let’s not forget that Wikipedia’s full text is one of the sources that feeds IBM’s Watson, the artificial intelligence computer that recently graduated from medical school.

I’ve recently engaged with folks within WikiProject Medicine, which is a project comprised of physicians, medical students, and other patient advocates from various regions of the world, who collectively collaborate to improve the quality of Wikipedia’s medicine and health-related articles. Through my learning and engagement, I’ve grown to respect and support their methodology for top quality information. I’ve proposed to utilize Wikipedia’s constructs to help surface regionalized knowledge around standards of care.

In my experiment, I look to 1) gain support by the Wikipedian community in my efforts, 2) build-out a sample framework for regional representation of standards of care, while supporting the main disease condition articles, and  3) move forward under the WikiProject model, likely as a sub-project of WikiProject Medicine, to recruit others to advance on regionalized information.

Why is this important?

Surfacing this sort of information provides transparency in regional health care practice variation, a critical input into global clinical study design. With better regional information, it should help local implementation of global studies and consequently reduce clinical development time.

Whether it is due to cultural or socioeconomic reasons or health outcomes data specific to certain regions, the reality is that countries view and tackle disease conditions differently. What is deemed the first-line therapy to treat hypertension in the United States is very different than the first-line treatment used in the United Kingdom; the world does not follow a one-size fits all model.

Understanding the therapies used to treat diseases is important for designing clinical trials specific to those regions, otherwise trial protocols need to be amended, critical time is lost and trial expenses increase – all while not meeting the patient and clinicians in their context.

As this data becomes available, we’d like to see it exchanged in a standardized location for all to see and contribute knowledge to. Stay tuned as the experiment proceeds. We’d love to hear your comments below.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Diving into the Wikipedia Crowd « lillycoi

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