Wikipedia gains growing attention as a provider of health information. This study aimed to investigate the use, relevance and challenges of Wikipedia among medical students.
An online questionnaire was made accessible to students at five medical universities in Germany, Austria, and Norway. Besides demographical data, the questions covered the role of Wikipedia in the academic life of medical students. The questionnaire investigated if the students had ever found erroneous medical entries and whether they corrected these.
A frequent use of Wikipedia in general is statistically significant correlated with a frequent use in medical studies (p < 0.001). Information retrieved from Wikipedia is predominantly critically appraised either by comparing it to profound knowledge (79%) and/or to specific literature (75%). Despite most (97%) respondents disclosed that they already had found false information in Wikipedia, recognized errors were seldomly corrected (~20%).
The information retrieved from Wikipedia is critically appraised. However, we found shortcomings in handling erroneous entries. We argue for professional responsibility among medical students in dealing with this dynamic resource. Moreover, we encourage medical schools to supplement information to Wikipedia to further benefit from the vast possibilities of this platform.