PARSIPPANY, N.J., Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The website Wikipedia is the single leading source of medical information for U.S. patients and healthcare professionals, an information services company says.
A report by IMS Health, a global information and technology services company, examined the current state of consumer behaviors on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The researchers developed the IMS Health Social Media Engagement Index, which assesses reach, based on the total number of individuals exposed to a message via likes, shares or re-tweets; relevance, the degree that content is found useful and shared across social networks; and relationship, the level of direct interaction around specific content.
The top 100 Wikipedia pages -- in English -- for healthcare topics were accessed, on average, 1.9 million times during the past year. Rarer diseases, which often have fewer available information sources and are less understood by patients and clinicians, show a higher frequency of visits than many more common diseases, the report said.
In an assessment of 50 major disease-specific Wikipedia articles, the institute found a strong correlation between page views and medicine use. Content used or updated on healthcare-related Wikipedia pages is subject to constant change, often overseen by informal or formal working groups.
Social media engagement lags significantly within the population segment that uses healthcare services the most -- the older generation. Age is one of a few differentiating factors in the use of social networking sites, the report said.
Younger people tend to conduct online investigations before the start of therapy, but, patients age 50 or older tend to begin their treatments prior to seeking information online, the report said.