The Internet and Web-based technologies provide users with a powerful tool to access health information. IEEE-USA recognizes the importance of the quality of health information on the Internet and endorses the Health Summit Working Group (HSWG) policy paper, Criteria for Assessing the Quality of Health Information on the Internet, (see attached appendix) as a minimum set of criteria for assessing the quality of health information on the Internet.
The IEEE-USA recommends the development of technology-based tools that support the assessment and development of quality health information on the Internet. These tools should be based on the minimum set of criteria. These criteria, based upon the seven criteria developed by HSWG, are abbreviated as follows:
This statement was developed by the IEEE-USA Medical Technology Policy Committee and represents the considered judgment of a group of U.S. IEEE members with expertise in the subject field. IEEE-USA promotes the career and technology-policy interests of the nearly 225,000 electrical, electronics and computer engineers who are U.S. members of the IEEE.
The Issue: The Internet can be a valuable resource for users seeking health information. The quality of this information is critically important as it could potentially affect health outcomes for millions. Yet the quality of health information on the Internet is extremely variable and difficult to assess. As health information proliferates on the Internet, there is thus, a growing need for objective criteria that can be used to evaluate the quality of information.
In 1999, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a new project for consumer and business education using Web sites to warn them of fraudulent advertising for health products on the Internet. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is also taking action against Internet site operators if claims made for medical products violate labeling laws. However, there are far too many sites for the federal government to police effectively. In 1998, more than 22 million Americans used their computers to seek medical information, making health concerns the sixth most common reason for using the Internet. The number of people going online for this purpose is growing by 70 percent a year and there are thousands of sites promoting health products on the Internet. New, Internet-based educational tools will have to be developed in the private sector to complement government information quality tools that provide an ability to assess the quality of health information on the Internet.
The Health Summit Working Group: In November 1996, the Health Information Technology Institute of Mitretek Systems (which is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization) convened the Health Summit Working Group (HSWG), a diverse group of stakeholders including consumers, health care providers, librarians, developers, academicians and government. The Working Group addressed the growing need for objective, widely acceptable criteria that can be used to evaluate the quality of information on the Internet. It has developed a policy paper that presents a set of seven criteria for use in evaluating the quality of health information provided on the Internet.
Editors note: The appendix referenced in the first paragraph is quite lengthy. As a result it has not been reproduced here. It may be found on the Internet (where else!!) at http://www.ieeeusa.org/forum/positions/healthnet.html or on the Health Summit Working Groups Internet site at http://hitiweb.mitretek.org/docs/policy.html
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