The “Health on the Net Foundation”:http://www.hon.ch/ is a nonprofit organization founded in Switzerland in 1995. Its purpose is to create ethical standards for medically-related websites, and identify and verify those sites that uphold those standards.
Nancy read an article in the Boston Globe which advised folks to look for the HONcode seal of approval on medical websites. There’s also “URAC”:http://urac.org/prog_accred_HWS_po.asp?navid=accreditation&pagename=prog_accred_HWS but that costs $7,000 to get accreditation. Health on the Net foundation does not charge.
So I reviewed the “principles of conduct”:http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct.html for HONcode accreditation and knew we wouldn’t have a problem.
The principles are:
# Authority – information and advice given only by medical professionals, or a clear statement if this is not the case
# Complementarity – information and help are to support, not replace, patient-healthcare professional relationships which is the desired means of contact
# Attribution – references to source of information (URL if available online)
# Justifiability – any treatment, product or service must be supported by balanced, well-referenced scientific information
# Transparency of authorship – contact information, preferably including email addresses, of authors should be available
# Transparency of sponsorship
# Honesty in advertising and editorial policy
The application process takes you step by step through the principles, asking for a URL or sample text from your website that proves that your site abides by the code. Took me about 30 minutes to go through and complete the “online application.”:http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/HONcode_membership.html If any of your answers indicated that your site might not be compliant, you were advised of what changes needed to be made before someone on the committee officially reviewed your site. Every bit of medical information on our site is backed up with a reference to the original source and we clearly state who wrote the information, when it was written and how it was reviewed. We did it because it was the right way to do it, not to get any particular accreditation. However, I had to make one change to satisfy the HON folks. It was due to this principle:
bq. Honesty in advertising & editorial policy – If advertising is a source of funding it will be clearly stated. A brief description of the advertising policy adopted by the Web site owners will be displayed on the site. Advertising and other promotional material will be presented to viewers in a manner and context that facilitates differentiation between it and the original material created by the institution operating the site.
We don’t have advertising on the site but the “guidelines”:http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Guidelines/hc_p8.html state:
bq. Even if the site does not display advertisements, a clear statement should indicate that the site does not host or receive funding from advertising or from the display of commercial content.
I had to think about this. We don’t take funding for advertising, but we *do* take money from for-profit funders and in return we plan to thank them on our website with their logo and a link. Is that advertising? I don’t think so. We’re taking money for a project related to our mission, not to advertise on our website.
I added a single line to our “donation”:http://www.c-three.org/donate.htm page to satisfy this requirement:
bq. Our website does not take funding specifically targeted for website advertising.
Apparently, that was enough as today I received notification that our site was reviewed and earned the HONcode seal of approval. This is now on the sidebar of our “main page:”:http://www.c-three.org