Michael Morgenstern, MD
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Michael Morgenstern, MD

About the author: Dr. Michael Morgenstern is double board certified in Neurology and Sleep Medicine and the founder of the American Sleep Apnea Society. He is the Director of the Morgenstern Medical in Lake Success, NY, where he treats patients with sleep disorders and other neurological conditions.
Michael Morgenstern, MD
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If you search google for “Sleep Apnea Wikipedia” you will be brought to the Sleep Apnea Wikipedia page. It is probably the most read article on sleep apnea in the world. If you simply search on google for “sleep apnea” you will also find the Sleep Apnea Wikipedia page is one of the top results. Nearly 10 billion pages are viewed every month on the English version of Wikipedia. Ask Siri for information on Sleep Apnea and you may receive an answer sourced from, you guessed it, Wikipedia. To the user requesting the information, Siri provided a factual answer. This would be great as far as the dissemination of health information about sleep apnea goes–if that information were accurate.

sleep apnea wikipediaWikipedia falling short of goals

Wikipedia nobly aims to encourage development of free educational content. It hopes one day this will encompass the “sum of all human knowledge” However, the quality of the articles falls short. In the words of Wikipedia it remains “a work in progress.” Nearly 1000 authoritative entries are tagged as forming the core of Wikipedias “good encyclopedia.” But they don’t even earn Wikipedia’s own middle of the road quality scores. Attempting to fix this content can be worse than having your teeth pulled.  If you are a topic expert it can be very frustrating. Wikipedia does not take author expertise into consideration.  Revisions from an expert can be changed by an elementary school volunteer with no knowledge of a topic.

Sleep Apnea Wikipedia Page

I recently experienced this firsthand. I reviewed the Sleep Apnea Wikipedia article on Wikipedia. I also looked through the Obstructive Sleep Apnea Wikipedia article as well as another on CPAP. Unsurprisingly, there were numerous errors present in each article. Egregious errors, that are misleading. Like suggesting that sleep apnea is categorized as an “abnormal behavior or psychological event.” Definitions were incorrect. References did not provide the referenced information. This was disconcerting. I decided to try and help out by editing an article. But my adaptations of false statements and incorrect information were quickly reversed by a volunteer working under a pseudonym.

Decentralized bureaucracy

This decentralized collection of volunteers, who routinely bicker with each other, run the most popular leaderless bureaucracy in the world. This decentralized structure is partially what helped make Wikipedia great in 2001. But it is entirely inappropriate in 2015. It is “out of date” according to Wikipedia’s executive director Sue Gardner. This “abrasive atmosphere” has led to an environment that has seen its volunteer base shrink by over a third since 2007. While articles increase in length, Wikipedia volunteers struggle to fix flaws that prevent it from providing acceptable levels of quality content.

Fact checking Sleep Apnea Online Content

My negative experience with Wikipedia has led me to establish a fact check page on the American Sleep Apnea Society website. This will allow for information from Sleep Apnea Wikipedia articles to be reviewed objectively. The review will be without interference from Wikipedia volunteers. I kid you not, I spent over 2 hours arguing over less than 3 sentences that should be changed. In the end it wasn’t changed. Our fact checker page will also allow a review of other popular websites that are often referenced for health information. Even well intended websites may have errors. They may neglect to provide sources or the names of their authors. Hopefully a fact checker page can provide some quality control of online content about sleep apnea.

Note 1: Since the writing of this article, Wikipedia deleted their suggestion that sleep apnea is an “abnormal behavior or psychological event.”

Note 2: The mission statements and goals listed above are actually part of the Wikimedia Foundation, a technical distinction.

References:

1. Sleep Apnea Wikipedia Page (old version) before writing this blog post: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sleep_apnea&diff=695312093&oldid=695305912. “Sleep apnea is classified as a dyssomnia, meaning abnormal behavior or psychological events occur during sleep.”
2. The Decline of Wikipedia
3. What’s wrong with Wikipedia 

About the author: Dr. Michael Morgenstern is a board certified Neurologist, expert in Sleep Medicine and  founder of the American Sleep Apnea Society. He is Director of the Cedarhurst Sleep Center in Long Island, New York and also sees patients with neurologic conditions.