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HONcode Principles: How Anxiety, Panic & Health Complies With Them

by Mike on November 18, 2008 · 29 comments

The HONcode badge is awarded by the Health On the Net Foundation to sites that have passed a rigorous application process.

I am honored and excited that Anxiety, Panic & Health was certified by the Health on the Net Foundation in October, 2008. It means that this site complies with the Health on the Net Code of Conduct and can display the HONcode badge, shown on the rightmost sidebar.

The award-winning Health On the Net Foundation developed the HONcode in 1996 as a means to standardize requirements to establish the reliability and credibility of health information. It certifies websites through a stringent application and review process, then polices the site to make sure it continues to comply with its eight Principles. It has certified over 6,500 websites worldwide in 32 languages, and has partnerships with the European Union, the World Health Organization, the National Library of Medicine, and Google.

This article is the second in a two-part series. It  lists the eight HONcode Principles and how Anxiety, Panic & Health complies with them. Yesterday’s post, “HONcode Certification Earned by Anxiety, Panic & Health!” introduces the Health On the Net Foundation and describes its world-wide effort to bring accountability, reliability and quality to medical and health information on the internet.

What are the HONCode Principles?

The Health On the Net Foundation has eight Principles that cover most of a health- and medical-related website’s activities. They were developed after extensive consultation with webmasters, editors, scientists, doctors, authors and website owners.

The Principles are similar to other organizations’ guidelines and principles, such as those of the American Medical Association, although they are several years more established than the AMA’s.{{1}} However, the AMA’s guidelines are meant for its own sites only, as are almost all of the guidelines from other organizations.

The Health On the Net Foundation HONcode accreditation is the premier health- and medical-related website accreditation service on the internet today. It is unique in its stringent application, review and certification process, as it is in its policing of accredited sites for continued compliance. The HONCode Principles are as follows (note that all policy statements are found in the rightmost sidebar under “Reference & Info”): {{2}}{{3}}

Principle 1: Authoritative

Indicate the qualifications of the authors

Any medical or health advice provided and hosted on this site will only be given by medically trained and qualified professionals unless a clear statement is made that a piece of advice offered is from a non-medically qualified individual or organisation. In addition, 

  • All medical information must be attributed to an author and their training in the field must be mentioned.
  • The qualifications of the information provider must be clearly stated.
  • If the author is not a medical professional, this must be clearly stated on the web site.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The Disclaimer clearly states Mike Nichols’ qualifications and training. Each post is marked with the author’s name. Any guest posts will have the required information in the body of the post.

Principle 2: Complementarity

Information should support, not replace, the doctor-patient relationship

The information provided on this site is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician. In addition,

  • A description of the website’s mission, purpose and intended audience is necessary.
  • A description of the organization behind the website, its mission and its purpose is also necessary.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The Disclaimer clearly states that any information on this site is not meant to replace the doctor-patient relationship. This message is also a part of any post where it is appropriate. The “About” tab at the top of the page describes the site’s mission, purpose and intended audience.

Principle 3: Privacy

Respect the privacy and confidentiality of personal data submitted to the site by the visitor

Confidentiality of data relating to individual patients and visitors to a medical/health Web site, including their identity, is respected by this Web site. The Web site owners undertake to honor or exceed the legal requirements of medical/health information privacy that apply in the country and state where the Web site and mirror sites are located. In addition,

  • A description of how confidential, private or semi-private information such as names, email addresses, and the content of emails received from or sent to visitors are treated.
  • Must inform users whether their data will be recorded in your own database and who can access this database.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The Privacy Statement describes this site’s handling of names, email addresses and content — basically, they are kept in strictest confidence and never sold, given, or distributed to anyone for any purpose. The site has no database, so that part of the Principle is not applicable.

Principle 4: Attribution

Cite the source(s) of published information, date and medical and health pages

Where appropriate, information contained on this site will be supported by clear references to source data and, where possible, have specific HTML links to that data. The date when a clinical page was last modified will be clearly displayed (e.g. at the bottom of the page). In addition,

  • All medical content (page or article) must have a specific date of creation and a last modification date.
  • All sources of the medical content must be given. Clearly indicate the recognized, scientific or official sources of health information quoted in your articles. If another website, a book, an article, a database, or any other source is used, it has to be specified.
  • Precise links must be provided to each source whenever possible, and the references should be in relation to the content referred.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The creation date of all posts and articles is displayed under their title, and modification dates are at the end. Each post and article, unless it is opinion, has a list of resources at the end. Some will have footnotes, such as this article. Each source is carefully evaluated for credibility and authority before being used. All sources must have valid URL’s, unless they are a book, journal or other print article, otherwise they are not used. Opinion posts are clearly indicated by the category “Opinion.”

Principle 5: Justifiability

Site must back up claims to benefits and performance

Any claims relating to the benefits/performance of a specific treatment, commercial product or service will be supported by appropriate, balanced evidence in the manner outlined above in Principle 4.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

Anxiety, Panic & Health does not promote commercial products or services, so in that sense this Principle is not applicable. Any suggestions for alleviating the symptoms of Anxiety Disorders will be backed up as stated in Principle 4.

Principle 6: Transparency

Accessible presentation, accurate email contact

The designers of this Web site will seek to provide information in the clearest possible manner and provide contact addresses for visitors that seek further information or support. The Webmaster will display his/her E-mail address clearly throughout the Web site. In addition, one must give an individual and prompt answer to each website visitor’s inquiries.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The theme for this blog, Thesis, was chosen specifically to present information with clarity and simplicity. The “Contact” tab at the top of each page is available to email me directly. All emails are answered promptly and confidentially in accordance with the Privacy Statement.

Principle 7: Financial disclosure

Identify funding sources

Support for this Web site will be clearly identified, including the identities of commercial and non-commercial organisations that have contributed funding, services or material for the site. In addition, all conflicts of interest must be stated.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The “Funding and Advertising Policy” describes the funding of this site. If a conflict of interest arises, it will either be placed in the Funding and Advertising Policy document, or a separate page will be written describing the conflict.

Principle 8: Advertising policy

Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

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. In addition,

  • The advertising policy describes which advertisements are accepted.
  • Advertisements and friendly links must be clearly marked to separate them from editorial content.

How Anxiety, Panic & Health complies

The “Funding and Advertising Policy” describes the advertising policy of this site, including which advertisements are accepted. Advertisements and “Friendly Links” are clearly marked and separate from editorial content. 

In conclusion

As you can see, the Health On the Net Foundation has strict standards for certification from their organization. I think it’s justified that I feel proud that Anxiety, Panic & Health has been certified by HON. I promise to you that I will maintain these standards, and exceed them when possible.

If you ever have any comments or concerns, please contact me by clicking on the “Contact” tab at the top of your screen.

This article is the second in a two-part series. Yesterday’s post, “HONcode Certification Earned by Anxiety, Panic & Health!” introduced the Health On the Net Foundation under the following topics:

  • What is the Health On the Net Foundation?
  • What does the Health On the Net Foundation do?
  • How does a site become HONcode accredited?

What do you think?

As you might imagine, the Health On the Net’s application was many pages long and covered everything from the philosophy of this blog to specifics such as stated policies, along with supporting URL’s. Due to the rigorous application process and the reputation of the Health On the Net Foundation, I frankly didn’t expect to be accepted, at least the first time. Acceptance did come, however, along with a number of things that had to be fixed within a week! In my excitement, I dropped everything and fixed them right then. I believe strongly that the things I had to do to receive accreditation made this a better site. I hope you agree!

  • Do you think that the Health On the Net accreditation adds to the authority of this blog?
  • What else could I do to enhance the credibility and authority of the blog?
  • Do you think that accreditation is overrated?

As always, your comments are welcome!

If you have enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to this blog, either via RSS or email at the top of your screen. It’s free! You can also follow me on Twitter from the same place. I would also appreciate your sharing this post using your favorite social media, such as StumbleUpon or Digg. Just click the little green “ShareThis” button at the bottom of this post.

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[[1]]Winker, Margaret; Flanagin, Annette; Chi-Lum, Bonnie; White, John; Andrews, Karen; Kennett, Robert; DeAngelis, Catherine; Musacchio, Robert. (2008, August 1). Guidelines for medical and health information sites on the Internet. Retrieved October 22, 2008 from http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/1905.html [[1]]

[[2]]Health on the Net Foundation. (2008, August 21). HON Code of Conduct (HONcode) for medical and health Web sites: The HONcode in brief. Retrieved October 21, 2008 from http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct.html [[2]]

[[3]]Health on the Net Foundation. (2008, November 13). Operational definition of the HONcode principles. Retrieved November 14, 2008 from http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Guidelines/guidelines.html[[3]]

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