Why Pharma Needs to Pay Attention to Wikipedia

Guest Post by Eileen O’Brien (eiobri@yahoo.com and @EileenOBrien)

Eileen is passionate about using the web and social media to advance healthcare communications. (And she is currently looking for a new interactive job…)  Here’s why she believes that Pharma should pay attention to Wikipedia:

Whether you agree or disagree with the concept of Wikipedia and the accuracy of its information, it’s a huge player in the world of healthcare and deserves attention.

1)    Physicians and consumers use Wikipedia for health info

Nearly 50% of US physicians going online for professional purposes are visiting Wikipedia for medical information according to Manhattan Research. This is a significant increase over the 28% reported in 2008.

And 36% of US consumers searched for health info on Wikipedia according to Rodale’s DTC study.

Manhattan Research found Wikipedia is even more popular in Europe, with two-thirds of physicians online using the site as a medical resource monthly. It’s also a top health destination for European consumers: “And consumers want companies to take a role in making sure that Wikipedia content can be trusted – the majority of online European consumers expect that pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies monitor Wikipedia pages about their products.” Manhattan Research, Cybercitizen Health Europe v8.0 

2)    Wikipedia dominates search engine results

Wikipedia appears in the top 10 results for more than 70% of medical queries in four different search engines, according to a study in July’s Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.  Consumers and HCPs will increasingly be driven to Wikipedia due to its dominance over the search engine results.

3)    Ensure that Wikipedia provides appropriate drug information and links to brand sites

Pharma companies (or their interactive agencies) should review all product and condition-specific treatment articles on Wikipedia sites across various countries. After this assessment, if there are errors or factual information is missing, there are ways to ethically update Wikipedia.

A designated person should declare a conflict of interest (which means you are contributing to Wikipedia in order to promote your own interests or those of a company) and then suggest changes to article talk pages. An Insider outlines  the appropriate steps.

Ongoing monitoring of changes to Wikipedia articles should also take place.

4)    Employees can edit Wikipedia resulting in bad PR

Abbott and Astra Zeneca both received negative publicity when employees used company computers to delete negative information on their drugs from Wikipedia articles.

Next Steps for Pharma

  • Since anyone with an Internet connection can edit Wikipedia, there should be a corporate policy about Wikipedia and other wikis. Employees should be educated about Wikipedia and the appropriate process if they see inaccurate information.
  • Companies may want to have one person ‘officially’ responsible for monitoring Wikipedia on behalf of the company; this person should declare their intentions on Wikipedia. After a thorough review of Wikipedia content on the company and brands, create a plan regarding initial corrections and ongoing maintenance.
  • Measure the traffic that comes to the company and brand websites from Wikipedia.
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2 thoughts on “Why Pharma Needs to Pay Attention to Wikipedia

  1. Great post!

    It is interesting to note that search has been shown(once again!)to drive behavior and that use of social media is gaining popularity (and assumed credibility) among HCPs.

    This is inline with fairly recent Manhattan Research data that shows 60 percent of physicians are using—or are interested in using—online social networks

    The end result? Enhanced dialogue and better patient outcomes. A winning situation for all!

    • Rob,

      So agree, if SM helps doctors and patients have better dialogues and better outcomes, its a win-win for all…doctors are starting to use it more to communicate among themselves, it will be interesting to watch to see if they also begin to use it communicate more with their patients…

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