URAC to accredit first series of thirteen United States e-health Web sites

Washington D.C. 12 December 2001The first health Web sites to attain independent quality accreditation have been announced by URAC, the Washington D.C. based health accreditation organisation. Thirteen e-health Web sites have been accredited by URAC under a programme, which measured them against rigorous standards for quality and accountability. The newly-accredited sites constitute some of the United States' largest and busiest health Web sites, including WebMD, WellMed, InteliHealth, the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA), Healthwise and Healthyroads.

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"The announcement is a major step forward for consumers", stated Garry Carneal, URAC president and CEO. "URAC accreditation provides them with an important tool to identify health Web sites that meet tough standards for quality." "We are very proud to be among the first to earn the URAC seal", commented Don Kemper, chairman of Hi-Ethics and CEO of Healthwise Incorporated. "There is no more authoritative measure of having earned the public's trust."

"Consumers have made it very clear that they are concerned about privacy, security, and finding Web site information they can trust. Meeting the rigorous requirements for quality, accountability, privacy and security within URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation standards is an effective manner to respond to consumers' needs", added George De Vries, president and CEO of American Specialty Health Inc. and Healthyroads Inc., another accredited site.

"WebMD, an expert source of health care information on-line, is pleased to be among the first organisations to receive URAC accreditation and support the URAC standards", stated Barry Wolcott, MD, Senior Vice President, Clinical Issues of WebMD. "The URAC accreditation reiterates WebMD's commitment to excellence, and provides consumers with a benchmark to measure the quality of information and services available on-line."

URAC also announced another 15 Web sites have begun the process of seeking accreditation, or have committed to do so. "By building on the efforts of Internet quality leaders, the URAC Accreditation Programme is undoubtedly the best and clearest way for health Web sites to demonstrate their compliance with ethical standards", stated Dr. Michael Rozen, president of Hi-Ethics Inc., a coalition of the most widely used Internet health sites and content providers.

The URAC Health Web Site Accreditation Programme Standards, released on July 30, 2001, are based in part on a fourteen-point set of principles by Hi-Ethics. Hi-Ethics' principles set high standards for consumer protection, including privacy, security, quality of information, professional conduct, and fairness of transactions. URAC standards cover a number of important issues including health content editorial process, disclosure of financial relationships, linking to other Web sites, privacy and security, and mechanisms for consumer complaints. The standards also contain requirements to assure that organisations have adequate internal processes and structure to monitor and maintain Web site quality over time.

The standards were developed through a process which encouraged broad-based input from numerous stakeholder groups including consumers, regulators, health care providers, health care organisations, and insurers. Members included 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 offers 13 accreditation programmes which span a broad spectrum of health care services. URAC has issued over 2000 accreditation certifications to more than 500 health care programmes. The URAC Health Web Site Standards are available to both Web site owners and the public at the URAC Web site and include 53 specific standards and detailed descriptions of what Web sites must do to achieve accreditation.

More details on the work of URAC are to be found in the VMW September 2001 article URAC draws up standards manual for independent accreditation of health Web sites.


Leslie Versweyveld

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