Wikipedia is a channel through which millions of people, including clinicians, patients, and their families, seek access to health information. The quality and structure of information in these Wikipedia entries is overseen by the dedicated team of volunteers represented by WikiProject Medicine. As such, this readily accessible encyclopedia has enormous potential for increasing the impact and contribution of PCORI-funded research, as well as improving the contribution of Wikipedia to the state of health care and evidence-based decision making on the part of clinicians and those for whom they provide care.
To take advantage of the opportunity offered by the role that Wikipedia plays in health care, this project will develop and assess training materials that will enlist medical and pharmacy students in introducing a greater proportion of patient-centered outcomes research (PCOR), such as PCORI-funded research, into Wikipedia. The goal is to foster in these students a greater appreciation of the value and contribution of patient-centered outcomes research and patient engagement, and to do so in ways that will lead to immediate improvements in Wikipedia’s coverage of health and medicine, as well as contribute more broadly to the professional practice of the students.
This health professions educational approach builds on existing health professions programs that currently include instruction on editing Wikipedia, if without this attention to PCOR, as these programs will provide a means of sustaining and spreading this approach beyond the life of this project. It will provide the means of mobilizing, on an ongoing basis, knowledgeable, motivated health professionals; and it will assist health professions schools in their common goals of graduating clinicians able to appraise, apply, and communicate evidence to patients.
In the short term, this project will create benchmarks on the current presence and use of PCORI-funded research in Wikipedia, which will enable increases in the proportion of this work in the encyclopedia to be assessed. It will design and implement training at Queen’s University, Icahn School of Medicine, Monash University, and Western Michigan University. These programs will share their experiences and provide feedback that will enable the project to prepare a publicly available toolkit of instructional materials on introducing PCORI-funded research into Wikipedia in ways that contribute to the quality of health professions education, clinical practice, and, potentially as a result, patient’s informed decision making.
The project’s longer-term objectives include putting in place the means for others to expand the utilization of this approach to health professions education as a way of fostering a greater awareness among health professionals and patient communities of what PCOR and PCORI-funded research have to offer to the general state of health care and well-being.