Health Care Quality
Social Control, Formal
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Abstract[This item is a preserved copy and is not necessarily the most recent version. To view the current item, visit http://www.jmir.org/2002/3/e15/ ] Background: A number of organisations have begun to provide specific tools for searching, rating, and grading this information, while others have set up codes of conduct by which site providers can attest to their high quality services. The aim of such tools is to assist individuals to sift through the mountains of information available so as to be better able to discern valid and reliable messages from those which are misleading or inaccurate. Objective: Recognising that European citizens are avid consumers of health related information on the internet and recognising that they are already using the types of rating system described above, the European Council at Feira on June 19-20 2000 supported an initiative within eEurope 2002 to develop a core set of Quality Criteria for Health Related Websites. The specific aim was to draw up a commonly agreed set of simple quality criteria on which Member States, as well as public and private bodies, may draw in the development of quality initiatives for health related websites. These criteria should be applied in addition to relevant Community law. Methods: A meeting was held during 2001 which drew together key players from Government departments, International Organisations, non-governmental organisations and industry, to explore current practices and experiments in this field. Some sixty invited participants from all the Member States, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States of America took part in the meeting of June 7-8, 2001: they included delegates from industrial, medical, and patient interest groups, delegates from Member States' governments, and key invited speakers from the field of health information ethics. These individuals, and many others, also took part in the web-based consultation which was open from august to November 2001. Results: The broad headings for quality criteria identified include Transparency and Honesty, Authority, Privacy and data protection, Updating of information, Accountability, Responsible partnering, Editorial policy, Accessibility, the latter includes attention to guidelines on physical accessibility as well as general findability, searchability, readability, usability, etc. A metadata labelling system may be used to make health data more findable. Such a system may also be used in conjunction with quality criteria to give higher ranking by search engines to those sites or pages labelled as complying with defined quality criteria. Conclusions: The set of quality criteria is based upon a broad consensus among specialists in this field, health authorities, and prospective users. It is now to be expected that national and regional health authorities, relevant professional associations, and private medical website owners will 1) implement the Quality Criteria for Health Related Websites in a manner appropriate to their website and consumers; 2) develop information campaigns to educate site developers and citizens about minimum quality standards for health related websites; 3) draw on the wide range of health information offered across the European Union and localise such information for the benefit of citizens (translation and cultural adaptation); 4) exchange information and experience at European level about how quality standards are being implemented.
. eEurope 2002: Quality Criteria for Health related Websites. J Med Internet Res 2002;4(3):e15 <URL: http://www.jmir.org/2002/3/e15/>
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