With one search, my mother-in-law and I joined the millions of people who turn to the Internet for health information every month and end up on Wikipedia, "the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit."
As many as three-quarters of patients with Internet access in the United States search for healthcare information online; in Europe, the figure is as high as 80%. Almost half of US physicians using the Internet for professional purposes reference Wikipedia; it could be as high as 75% in Europe.
Searches don't necessarily start on Wikipedia, but a high percentage end up there. A recent post on the eConsultancy digital marketing blog reported that Wikipedia entries are likely to feature heavily in any web search, second only to brand names or related URLs. eConsultancy's "Wikipedia and SEO" post claims that where searches are focused on more generic information, disease states for example, Wikipedia is likely to rank first.
Wikipedia scores highly with search engines which, like the general public, trust its content, recognize the breadth of information it contains and its global, multi-lingual nature. The free-to-access content is generally regarded to be of a high standard, especially when compared with information available through un-moderated social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
The fact that patients turn to the Internet, and ultimately Wikipedia, for health information is not surprising. The IMS Institute report spotlights a growing need for pharma to consider engaged patients who want information that is reliable, up to date and understandable. Wikipedia is right there, with almost 4.5 million articles in English and growing at the rate of 800 pages a day. While not perfect, it is the most comprehensive encyclopaedia in human history.