"Some of the interactivity of wikis may be adopted by one of the most popular government websites, NHS Direct Online, although it has no intention of allowing anyone to edit its medical advice. Instead, it may invite those with long-term conditions to contribute advice on coping with related problems.
When I was a GP, people with cancer often didn't want to ask so much about their treatment but things like where to find a wig-maker," explains Dr Mike Sadler, NHS Direct's medical director - areas that patients often know better than professionals.
Depending on the contents of the government's white paper on out-of-hospital care, NHS Direct could start accepting contributions from the public next autumn. "It would tap into the community of people with long-term conditions, which is massive," says Dr Sadler.
However, material generated by patients - as well as social workers, who would be involved in such a project - would probably take the format of a moderated chatroom, rather than a wiki. "In the short term, it would be adding to a conversation in print, rather than removing half a page because you thought it was wrong," says Sadler."
The whole thing is worth a read – particularly if you aren’t familiar with the way that Wikis are managed.
- With Wikis, could non-mainstream medical perspectives (e.g. the anti-MMR viewpoint) be highlighted because of the all-inclusiveness, or would the Wiki have less of an establishment cachet, thereby improving the public’s understanding of medical advice?
- Will establishment-managed Wikis lead to yet another hierarchy that rules on who is allowed to comment and who isn’t? Will the bureaucracy and public-funded argument that goes into who can and should have editing rights use up more energy than the actual creation of content?
- ... and will this improve or degrade the quality of advice to the public and professionals alike? (a: degrade! degrade!)