URAC draws up standards manual for independent accreditation of health Web sites

Washington 30 July 2001Standards for the first independent accreditation programme for health Web sites in the United States have been released by URAC, the Washington, D.C. based health accreditation organisation. The URAC Board of Directors formally endorsed the standards on July 27, 2001. URAC's Web site accreditation standards were developed through a process which encouraged a broad-based input. The committee's first draft of Web site accreditation standards was submitted for public comment earlier this year and that input was incorporated into the final Web site accreditation standards.

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The 15-page standards manual, which is available to both Web site owners and the public alike, includes 53 specific standards and detailed descriptions of what Web sites must do to achieve accreditation. "The URAC accreditation programme will empower consumers to identify health Web sites which follow rigorous standards for quality and accountability", stated Garry Carneal, URAC President and CEO.

The URAC standards are based on the 14 Hi-Ethics Principles and draw upon the work of various organisations, such as the Internet Healthcare Coalition, to develop ethical frameworks for health Web sites. "By building on the efforts of these Internet quality leaders, the URAC Health Web Site Accreditation programme becomes the best and clearest pathway for health Web sites to demonstrate their compliance with ethical standards", stated Donald W. Kemper, Chairman of Hi-Ethics and CEO of Healthwise Incorporated.

The standards are designed for the accreditation of consumer-oriented, on-line health resources, and address a number of important concerns, including the:

  • health content editorial process
  • disclosure of financial relationships
  • linking to other Web sites
  • privacy and security
  • consumer complaint mechanisms

The standards also contain requirements to assure that organisations have adequate internal processes and structure to monitor and maintain Web site quality over time. "Our goal was to translate ethical principles into a set of clear, verifiable requirements", noted Guy D'Andrea, URAC Senior Vice President. "The URAC Health Web Site Standards provide a practical tool to measure a site's commitment to quality practices."

"The release of these standards marks a significant step forward for the e-health community", commented Janet Marchibroda, Chief Executive Officer of the eHealth Initiative, a trade group representing the e-health interests of the health care industry. Mrs. Marchibroda continued: "URAC's accreditation programme will play an important role in promoting quality practices as well as improving consumer confidence in the health care information received via the Internet."

The URAC Health Web Site Advisory Committee is comprised of stakeholder groups including consumers, regulators, insurers, health care providers, and health care organisations. Members include representatives of such organisations as the American Association of Health Plans, the American Medical Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and the Citizen Advocacy Center.

URAC is a leader in the accreditation of health and managed care organisations. Founded in 1990, URAC currently offers 12 accreditation programmes that span a broad spectrum of health care services. URAC has issued over 2000 accreditation certificates to over 500 health care programmes. URAC-accredited organisations do business in all 50 U.S. states and provide services to more than 120 million Americans. The Health Web Site Standards can be found on the URAC Web site.


Leslie Versweyveld

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