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Wikipedia’s health content is the most frequently visited resource for health information on the internet. While the literature provides strong evidence for its high usage, a comprehensive literature review of Wikipedia’s role within the health context has not yet been reported.
To conduct a comprehensive review of peer-reviewed, published literature to learn what the existing body of literature says about Wikipedia as a health information resource and what publication trends exist, if any.
A comprehensive literature search in OVID Medline, OVID Embase, CINAHL, LISTA, Wilson’s Web, AMED, and Web of Science was performed. Through a two-stage screening process, records were excluded if: Wikipedia was not a major or exclusive focus of the article; Wikipedia was not discussed within the context of a health or medical topic; the article was not available in English, the article was irretrievable, or; the article was a letter, commentary, editorial, or popular media article.
89 articles and conference proceedings were selected for inclusion in the review. Four categories of literature emerged: 1) studies that situate Wikipedia as a health information resource; 2) investigations into the quality of Wikipedia, 3) explorations of the utility of Wikipedia in education, and 4) studies that demonstrate the utility of Wikipedia in research.
The literature positions Wikipedia as a prominent health information resource in various contexts for the public, patients, students, and practitioners seeking health information online. Wikipedia’s health content is accessed frequently, and its pages regularly rank highly in Google search results. While Wikipedia itself is well into its second decade, the academic discourse around Wikipedia within the context of health is still young and the academic literature is limited when attempts are made to understand Wikipedia as a health information resource. Possibilities for future research will be discussed.
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