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Dangers of Web 2.0: In Medicine

I’ve written more than 200 posts about web 2.0 and medicine, but I almost never focus on the dangers web 2.0 can cause to medical professionals and patients. The first time I talked about this important subject was at the School of Medicine, at Yale. And they liked it. So let’s see what kind of problems, dangers we have to face while using web 2.0 in medicine and the tools we have to fight against these with.

Medical Blogosphere:

The Healthcare Blogger Code of Ethics was designed in response to problems experienced by medical bloggers. The goal of this code is twofold

  1. To give the readers of a medical blogger a clear idea of the standards by which the blog is maintained.
  2. To give bloggers (especially anonymous ones) a clear set of guidelines they can show employers, patients, or other concerned parties as to the nature of the blogging.

Since healthcare blogging is sometimes dealing with extremely sensitive information, it is extremely important that these blogs maintain the highest of integrity.Member

Health On the Net Foundation is the leading organization promoting and guiding the deployment of useful and reliable online medical and health information, and its appropriate and efficient use. Created in 1995, HON is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.


Physicians must assure that the case report does not contain any of the 18 health information identifiers noted in the HIPAA regulations, unless authorization from the individual (s) has been obtained. The authorization is not required if neither of the 18 identifiers below are used in the case report.

Medical Wikis:

  • Wikipedia: We, medical editors in Wikipedia, work hard to ensure the quality of our articles. We only focus on inserting proper peer-reviewed references into our medical articles. In this post, I mentioned plenty of projects and tools with which we fight against false medical information in the online encyclopaedia.

wikipedia.png users must be credentialed based on their medical training before they are allowed to publish. All new users will be required to submit their medical training, degree, and current hospital or medical school. All credentialed users will be listed on the editorial board and are encouraged to publish their resume or curriculum vitae stating their education, medical training, board certification, and research. This process will remove the transparency of anonymous article creation and provide an extra level or credibility.


Second Life, the virtual world:

I’m currently working on a page that would be totally dedicated to the credentials of the members of the Ann Myers Medical Center. If you see a medical project in Second Life or you meet doctors there, always ask them to provide some credentials.


Medical Cases:

If you would like to analyze medical cases, use peer-reviewed sources like the one at Clinical Cases and Images.

Medical Search Engines:

Search engines (like Google or Yahoo) don’t select among sources, that’s why many of the medical search results can’t be relevant. But medical search engines use peer-reviewed sources and sites selected by experts providing the most relevant and reliable medical information of the best quality. Check out Healthline or MedHunt!



I’m pretty sure the only way we can fight against pseudoscience and medical quackery is to take control of publishing medical information of the web. And by using these tools to ensure the quality of medical articles and blogs on the web, medical professionals can also build their online reputation.

Please let me know if you happen to know other tools or dangers!

Further reading:

  1. I had no idea medicine was present on the internet. Especially the second life thingy is kind of … wow!

    March 15, 2008
  2. Hayden #

    Part of the onus must also be on the individuals to check their information sources. A little common sense can go a long way for this sort of thing.

    That said…the fact that I’ve seen a number of my lab students reference wikipedia in assignments does indicate that many people take what they find written on the web as gospel.

    March 15, 2008
  3. very cool site – I use all the time and mypatients are even more educated than ever

    March 16, 2008
  4. cyberanto #

    It’s true that anybody can modify web 2.0 articles and we should be careful of what we read online, and only taking the word of a professional.

    March 16, 2008
  5. Bertalan,

    Great post…and we’re as fascinated and very focused on the benefits of Health 2.0. Have you seen OrganizedWisdom Health at It’s a human-powered, physician-guided health search engine. It’s built using a mediawiki platform, although it’s designed as a search engine with high-quality, clutter-free search results that are hand-crafted by guides and supervised by physicians. I’m the CEO and welcome any feedback.

    March 16, 2008
  6. Thank you for the valuable comments!

    Steven, of course, Pat has already hosted my Medicine 2.0 blog carnival at The Health Wisdom Blog.

    March 16, 2008
  7. When you’re recommending a medical search engine, don’t forget about SearchMedica. Not only does it index only peer-reviewed medical sources, but focuses specifically on information for physicians and other practicing healthcare professionals.

    Thanks for providing some sensibility around the hype of Web 2.0!

    March 17, 2008
  8. Great post. The only thing I would quibble with is the use of the word “control” in your conclusion. Recommendations, monitoring, calling to account, debating yes of course, quite necessary; but becoming the medical police of the internet is not only contrary the spirit of the medium, but impossible as well.

    Again, just a thought. Thanks.

    March 18, 2008
  9. Cyndy, thank you, I will write about it soon.

    Alfred, you’re absolutely right. I could have been more specific. By saying control, I mean not to become a police of the online world, but to upload reliable medical content instead of letting non-experts to do the same.

    March 19, 2008
  10. hello every good to be here. wish you best of luck.

    April 5, 2011

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