URAC to Release Health Web Site Accreditation Standards July 30
Not-for-profit URAC, formerly the American Accreditation Health Care Commission, on July 30 will issue a list of accreditation standards for online health sites, the Wall Street Journal reports. The move, part of a "growing effort" by the online health industry to "police itself," will help consumers assess health information and will "provide a forum for reporting misinformation, privacy violations and other complaints," the Journal reports. The standards will include more than 50 criteria that sites will be required to meet before receiving the URAC "seal of approval." Accredited Web sites will have the seal on their home pages, linked to URAC's Web site, allowing consumers to register complaints. The organization will conduct annual reviews of each site it accredits and verify continuing compliance with its standards. URAC will investigate complaints and may require health sites that violate standards to take "corrective action" or withdraw its accreditation. URAC officials predict that about 25 to 50 companies will apply for accreditation this summer. According to the Journal, URAC plans to charge health sites a $5,000 application fee and additional charges "if further assessment is required," although the company may charge smaller sites on a "sliding scale." URAC President Garry Carneal said that the standards will "distill all the key principles in a practical way," including guidelines for advertising, privacy and "reliability" of information. A recent Harris Interactive poll found that consumers are wary of information offered on health Web sites sponsored by pharmaceutical manufacturers and health insurers. In addition, a study conducted by Rand Corp. on behalf of the California HealthCare Foundation found that most online health information is "beyond the comprehension of many consumers" (Landro, Wall Street Journal, 7/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.