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Selection Criteria for the Virtual Health Information Center

With the proliferation of web sites on the Internet, a set of criteria is needed in evaluating web sites and rejecting those that have misleading, overly biased, or false information.  Any health-related web site that contains erroneous or misleading information can be dangerous to anyone using the information. Consequently, criteria have been identified and used in selecting web sites for the Health Information Center Online. These criteria are intended to ensure that the web sites found in the Health Information Center Online have information that is safe, dependable, and reliable.

The standard set of criteria chosen by the Memphis Public Library and Information Center for judging a site for inclusion in the Health Information Center Online are those developed through the work of the Health Information Technology Institute (a part of the healthcare program of Mitretek Systems, Inc., a nonprofit technology company working in the public interest.)  This institute convened a Health Summit Working Group which developed the following set of seven criteria for use in evaluating and assessing the quality of health information on the Internet.

  • Credibility: includes the source, currency, relevance/utility, and editorial review process for the information. 
  • Content: must be accurate and complete, and an appropriate disclaimer provided. 
  • Disclosure: includes informing the user of the purpose of the site, as well as any profiling or collection of information associated with using the site. 
  • Links: evaluated according to selection, architecture, content, and back linkages. 
  • Design: encompasses accessibility, logical organization (navigability), and internal search capability. 
  • Interactivity: includes feedback mechanisms and means for exchange of information among users. 
  • Caveats: clarification of whether site function is to market products and services or is to serve as a primary information content provider.

Other credible health sites with established criteria equal to or greater than the library’s are also included in the Health Information Center Online.

These are sites approved by MedlinePlus and by Healthfinder

MedlinePlus is a product of a joint effort of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.  It offers information intended for use by the consumer and its main emphasis is health information available from the government.  It is considered to be the most reliable source of medical information on the Internet.

The Healthfinder web site, developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is a free gateway to reliable consumer health information.

Hon-CodeOther sites selected for inclusion are those that display the HONcode seal. The HONcode seal means that the publishers of these web sites have adopted the Health on the Net Foundation Code of Conduct.  The Health on the Net Foundation recognized the problem of assessing the credibility of a publisher of a web site as well as the accuracy and relevance of the information found there. Consequently, it created its Code of Conduct to help standardize the reliability of health information on the web. The HONcode is not an award system; but it holds web site developers to ethical standards and it helps make certain that readers always know the source and purpose of the data they find on a web site.

DISCLAIMER: Internet Use Policy