Cyberspace is buzzing today with news of Medpedia, a global collaboration wikipedia-type project
that will offer a massive amount of up to date medical and health information for free to anyone with an
Medpedia is described as the "world's largest collaborative online encyclopedia of medicine". The information will be sourced from doctors, medical schools, hospitals, health organizations, all kinds of health professionals, who have signed up as volunteers to build "the most comprehensive medical clearinghouse in the world for information about health, medicine and the body", said the Medpedia press statement.
The site, which will be free to use, is due to launch at the end of 2008. You can see a preview at www.medpedia.com.
Health organizations that have already signed up to give information or are encouraging their members to participate include:
- Harvard Medical School.
- Stanford School of Medicine.
- University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.
- University of Michigan Medical School.
- American College of Physicians (ACP).
- Oxford Health Alliance (OxHA.org).
- Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies, (FOCIS).
- European Federation of Neurological Associations (EFNA).
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and other government research groups have also said they want to contribute and cooperate because they are keen to distribute information to the general public and healthcare professionals.
Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Editor-in-Chief of the Harvard Health Publications Division of Harvard Medical School, Dr Anthony L Komaroff said in a press statement that:
"Medpedia has the potential to become a vital tool for scientists, researchers and educators, as well as for the general public across the globe, providing easy access to the latest and best information on medicine."
"Sharing what we know, we can help each other and help ourselves," he added.
Senior Associate Dean for Information Resources and Technology at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr Henry Lowe agreed, saying that the reason they were supporting the project was because it had the potential to impact both public and individual health by making:
"High quality, unbiased medical information freely available to everyone via a collaborative, open and constantly evolving website."
The plan is for Medpedia to offer interlinked, content-rich web pages on more than 30,000 known diseases and medical conditions, over 10,000 or so different drugs prescribed each year, thousands of medical procedures, and millions of medical establishments worldwide.
The content will also include still images, photos, video and sound and will be written in everyday language that is accessible and user friendly. A "technical" section using more specialized scientific and clinical terms will cover details of interest to professionals.
So what is going to motivate professionals to give voluntarily of their time, and sign up as contributors and editors? Perhaps there is a feeling of inevitability, with many believing it is just a matter of time before something like this happens, so get on board and at least get a piece of the action. As Dr Linda Hawes Clever, Clinical Professor at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) Medical School, explained:
"It's feeling inevitable that all the medical and health information will be available worldwide at no charge via an open, collaborative platform like Medpedia."
"Medpedia will also serve as an important place for medical professionals to get credit and become known for their specialties," she added.
Dr Joseph Martin, former Dean to both the Harvard and UCSF Medical Schools, said it was also a powerful way to discuss and make a difference:
"Medpedia offers an exciting vehicle to enhance discussions of medical topics through an interactive format. I believe it will facilitate transfer of medical knowledge in ways not currently available."
Becoming an Editor-Contributor to Medpedia will provide tens of thousands of medical professionals around the world the opportunity to make a difference in improving the health of our patients."
Medpedia has issued an open invitation to qualified MD's, PhD's in biomedical research and clinicians to sign up as volunteer editors and contributors. Candidates will be screened rigorously, they said, before being allowed to make contributions.
High-tech legend Mitch Kapor who serves on the advisory board of the Wikimedia Foundation, is the Founding Chair of Mozilla Foundation, the Co-Founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Founder of the Lotus Development Corp said:
"The enthusiastic support Medpedia is receiving from all over the world tells us the time is right for this type of resource."
Medpedia Founder and Chairman, James Currier, who according to the Washington Post got the idea for Medpedia while endlessly searching for medical information online, for instance to help decide whether he should take his feverish son to hospital, said:
"In recent years, we have witnessed the benefit that a website like Wikipedia can have on all knowledge."
"With ongoing experimentation and guidance from the medical community, Medpedia could provide a similar benefit to the world in the specialized area of health and medicine," he added.
Medpedia has a distinguished list of advisers, including leading academics, technologists, and health editors. The full list can be viewed at medpedia.com.
The engine behind Medpedia is the open source Mediawiki software, which like Wikipedia, makes content available for re-use within the scope of the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). This means anyone can use Medpedia content as long there is a hyperlink back to the site.
There are plans to have "non-invasive text-based advertising" on the site, for instance like Google's Ad Sense, to cover costs. There will also be a facility whereby users can flag up inappropriate ads, so they can be reviewed and potentially removed.
Source: Medpedia.com, Washington Post.
Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD