by: Matt Rhodes

When people think of user-generated content they often think of the media or publishing. Videos on YouTube, spoofing TV shows or films, and content responding to and expanding upon journalistic or editorial articles abound. But UGC is certainly not limited to these areas. In fact it can work best on any topic where some individuals will have developed a specific interest in or knowledge of the area.

Beyond support, people can use social media and user-generated content to help understand their illnesses. The supposed danger here is that people will self-diagnose and that this may be incorrect. At the same time, you’d expect that privacy issues would prevent any meaningful and useful exchange of ideas. But in fact, user-generated medical content is a vibrant example of how the social networking and online communities can be powerful for exchanging information.

A report by Jupiter Research in 2007 showed that 20% of Americans turn to others online for information about medical issues. They are clearly not shy of seeking or giving advice, even on more personal issues. They use sites such as OrganizedWisdom, a Wiki-style community, to share information they have and get information they need.

The concern over the accuracy of this information still stands, with worries about non-medical professionals sharing information that people use to self-diagnose. But research by the British Medical Journal in 2004 found that in the online support communities it studied only 6% of content was incorrect. If this replicated across all medical content online then it would probably be among some of the more accurate user-generated content on the internet.

User-generated medical content shows that people are willing to share and are accurate when they do so. Even in a more niche and potentially risky area such as medical advice and disgnosis, the quality and usefulness of user-generated content is high.

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