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Operational definition of the HONcode principles

General Information for Websites interested in the HONcode certification and Guidelines for Applicants:

To speed up the review process and to ensure approval of your site, please read these guidelines carefully and make sure that your web site follows all the principles of the HONcode.

Review Process

During the registration process, the applicant will fill out a questionnaire that will give a quick indication of any principles needing attention. The applicant can immediately begin to make improvements or changes to the site to increase its chances of being approved when the reviewer first visits the site a few days later.

The guidelines for displaying the HONcode seal dynamics will be sent by email after  the certification of your your site by the HONcode evaluation committee.

If you have any questions or if you need advices, do not hesitate to contact the HONcode team by phone or email.

After your approval, you will have to notify HON if you make changes to your site that could affect your HONcode compliance (e.g. mergers, changes of names, change of contact emails, advertising policy, etc.).

Web2.0
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Concerning collaborative Websites - Web2.0 :

These directives apply to all collaborative websites such as Web 2.0 forums, social networking sites, file sharing sites, wikis and blogs among others. We define Web 2.0 as all sites/platforms where the user can interact with the content and / or with others. The platform must have a charter to use the following principles and must be accessible to all and from the home page.

Principle 1 - Information must be authoritative

All medical information presented on your web site must be attributed to an author and his/her training in the field must be mentioned.

This may be done on each of the pages with medical information or on an "Advisory Board" or "Editorial Board" information page.

The qualifications of the information provider (author, webmaster or editor) must be clearly stated (i.e. patient, Internet professional, medical or health professional).

If the information provider is a medical doctor, his/her specialty must be mentioned.
If the author is not a medical professional, this must be clearly stated on the web site.

The name of the person in charge of the publication of the site (editor) or the responsible of the site should be mentioned on the site . If this person is a health professional (medical or paramedical), qualifications must be mentioned.

Note:
All acronyms relating to degrees or affiliations must be explained.  They can be identified on a separate page. entitled “Information page”.

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
It must be clearly stated if the platform is moderated or not. The qualifications/credentials of the moderator(s) must be clearly stated. The true names of the moderators are not mandatory. Moderators may use pseudonyms. The frequency of the moderatorís visits of to the website must be given.

It must be stated that all users are by default considered as non medical professionals. If otherwise, it must also be stated.

It must be stated that if a health professional gives medical information as a platform user, his status as a medical professional must be identified.

It must be clearly stated that platform users and moderators must behave at all times with respect and honesty.

It must be clearly stated how the moderators intervene and how platform users may be banned. It must be stated if platform users are warned or notified before being banned.

Principle 2 - Purpose of the website

A statement clearly declaring that the information on the website is not meant to replace the advice of a health professional has to be provided.

A brief description of the website’s mission, purpose and intended audience is necessary.

Another brief description of the organisation behind the website, its mission and its purpose is also necessary.

The site must reflect its engagement to respect this principle in its editorial content. You can use a statement such as  E.g. 'The information provided on [your web site] is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own physician.'

We believe that the patient-doctor relationship is not respected when consultations are made online. Therefore, excluded from the certification are sites offering "online consultations" in which diagnosis are made.

However, sites offering "online information," which only provide information and not a diagnosis, are allowed. In this case, we need an example of a typical response that a user may receive.

If this service is to be charged, the rate must be acceptable comparable to the rates of a local medical consultation.

Finally, we must specify the geographical limitations of this service. Indeed, it should be sold only to individuals residing in the website's country of origin.

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
A statement clearly declaring that the information on the platform is not meant to replace the advice of a health professional has to be provided. E.g. of such a statement is 'The information provided on [web 2.0 platformís name] is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own physician.' The minimum age for the use or participation in these platforms must be clearly stated and strictly adhered to.

Principle 3 - Confidentiality

This principle is applicable to all sites, even if your site does not host patient records or store any medical or personal data.

Your site must describe its privacy policy regarding how you treat confidential, private or semi-private information such as email addresses and the content of emails received from or sent to your visitors.

You must inform your visitors whether their data will be recorded in your own database, who can access this database (others, only you, nobody), if this information is used for your own statistics (anonymous or not), or if these statistics are used by third party or other companies. You must also declare if your site uses cookies.

Even if one or more of these points are not relevant to your site, you must state how you handle the following information sent to you by your visitors: (email addresses or/and contact information, names, personal or medical data).

Note:
-In the section describing your privacy policy, mention for which countries the site undertakes to honour or exceed the legal requirements for medical/health information privacy.

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
The platform must have a privacy policy. It must underline the fact that everyone can read a post and use its content. It must be clearly stated if the platform user has the possibility to modify or erase his posts.

Principle 4 - Information must be documented: Referenced and dated

All medical content (page or article) has to have a specific date of creation and a last modification date.

Date of last modification must also be included on every page describing ethical and legal information, author(s), mission, and the intended audience.

All sources of the medical content must be given. You have to clearly indicate the recognized, scientific or official sources of health information quoted in your articles. If you used another website, a book, an article, a database or any other support, it has to be specified. The references specified have to lead us to the article mentioned. You have to provide a precise link to the source, whenever it is possible and the references should be in relation with the content referred.

We suggest you at the bottom of a health or medical Web article to provide the scientific references with the following format:

Journal Articles:
Author1, Author2, Author3 Title. Name of the journal. year-references. page number

Conferences or books:
Author1, Author2, Author3 Title Name of the conference or book name - Year - Page number

Regarding direct links to sources, the best is to archive them using http://www.webcitation.org/

Note: - The last time the whole site was updated or the copyright date only, are not sufficient to comply with this principle. The 'last update' date should not be set to automatically display the current date.

- Depending on the website and its content, you may gather a bibliography instead of having a specific source for each medical article or page. This bibliography should clearly outline each reference to each medical subject.

Key points:
- Where the information is coming from?
- On which basis (scientific or different literature) information are they founded??
- When appropriate, a bibliography must be included, when possible, hypertext links.
- Is the date of the modifications shown on each medical and health page ?
- Is the date of last modification is shown on pages containing the privacy policy and legal information ?
- Is the date of the last modificationsshown on the pages describing (the) author (s), the mission and the audience of the site?

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
A statement asking platform users to give references (links for ex.) to the health/medical information they provide when it is not personal experience, must be provided.

Personal experience is any symptom, test, treatment etc that the person or a close family member has undergone himself/herself.

All posts must be automatically dated.


Principle 5 - Justification of claims

All information about the benefits or performance of any treatment (medical and/or surgical), commercial product or service are considered as claims. All claims have to be backed up with scientific evidence (medical journals, reports or others).

All brand names have to be identified (with ® for example).

Unless the purpose of the site is clearly stated to be the commercial platform of a particular product, it must include alternative therapies or products (including generics).

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
It should be stipulated that all users of the platform undertake to disseminate only information that is true and correct in light of their knowledge.

Principle 6 - Website contact details

The website must be operational and the information must be accessible and clearly presented.

There must be a way to contact the editor, such as a working email address or contact form, for visitors who would like to have more details or support. This contact must be easy to access from anywhere on the site.

You must give an individual and prompt answer to any website visitors' enquiries.

Note: If you would like to avoid spam or misuse of your contact email you can encrypt the email address with this encryption service .

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
A specific contact form or an email address must be accessible for web 2.0 platform members in order to contact the editor or the moderators of the forum.

The platform rules must be easily accessible from the platformís homepage.


Principle 7 - Disclosure of funding sources

Your site must include a statement declaring its sources of funding. This is required for all sites, including personal sites with no external sources of funds, and sites funded by government agencies, pharmaceutical companies or other commercial entities.

All funding must be declared: government agency, private companies, donations, etc.

You also have to declare all conflicts of interest.

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
It must be clearly stated if the moderators are volunteers or not.


Principle 8 - Advertising policy

Editorial policy:
Conflicts of interest and external influences which could affect the objectivity of the editorial content must be clearly stated in the disclaimer.

Advertising policy:
All websites displaying paying banners have to have an advertising policy. This policy must explain how the site distinguishes between editorial and advertising content and which advertisements are accepted. Any conflict of interest has to be explained.

Any non-paying banner or ‘friendly’ link should also be distinguished from editorial content by a label such as “banner” or “friendly banner”. A policy should also be provided to explain to readers that these banners are not advertisements but have been provided for further reference or other purposes.

If the site does not display advertisements, a clear statement has to indicate that the site does not host or receive funding from advertising or from the display of commercial content.

All advertisements and any promotional, commercial or information in the form of articles, or display advertisements (banners or logos), have to be clearly indicated and easily identifiable as such, separated and distinguished from the editorial content. All advertising (including, but not limited to, pop-up windows and banners) have to be identified with the word "Advertising" or similar identifying clearly the sponsor.

If banners are served from a free web hosting service or 'banner exchange', the webmaster must clearly state that the advertising banners are from the free Web host and are not endorsed by the site editor.

Note:
Advertising is hosted at the responsibility of the editor. Sites that display advertisements for pornographic web sites (even if not under their direct control, such as with 'banner exchange' services) will be removed from the HONcode certification process and all HON databases
.

In addition guidelines for collaborative Websites:
It must be determined whether  the users of the platform have the right to publish advertisements in the form of content, banner or links etc.


Posting of the HONcode Seal of Compliance

Once a site achieves full compliance and is approved, it must correctly display the HONcode seal. We recommend placement of the certification seal on the homepage.

Warning: The HONcode seal could be displayed on the site only after the notification from the HONcode evaluation committee. You will receive the active and dynamic seal to be displayed on your home page at the address email that you indicated us during the HONcode certification request.  The seal should not be modified.
The correct way to post the seal:
1. The seal of HONcode as well as the associated text (“we subscribe to the principles of HONcode. click here to Verify” must be displayed.
2. The seal of HONcode must bring your visitor on the page of the certificate indicating the state of your site.
• The state of the site can be in examination, “ReExam” or in conformity, “certified”.
• In conformity means that the site respects all the principles required by the HONcode principles.
It is acceptable to post the text with a “mouse-over” but the words “Verify here” must be displayed beside the seal and must be visible constantly.

We invite you, as well as the Internet visitors visiting an HONcode certified website, which does not respect these Principles or makes a fraudulent use of the HONcode seal (image or a bad link to HON), to consult the following page relating to the policy and  monitoring of the HONcode websites http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/policy_f.html. “ 

We invite you and all Internet users who become aware of a HONcode-certified site that does not respect the HONCode Principles or makes fraudulent use of the HONcode seal to contact us. Write to .

Apply for HONcode certification

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