A framework for improving the quality of health information on the world-wide-web and bettering public (e-)health: the MedCERTAIN approach.
There has been considerable debate about the variable quality of health information on the world-wide-web and its impact on public health. While central authorities to regulate, control, censor, or centrally approve information, in-formation providers or websites are neither realistic nor desirable, public health professionals are interested in making systems available that direct patient streams to the best available information sources. National governments and medical societies have also recognized their responsibility to help users to identify "good quality" information sources. But what constitutes good quality, and how can such a system be implemented in a decentralized and democratic manner? This paper presents a model which combines aspects of consumer education, encouragement of best practices among information providers, self-labeling and external evaluations. The model is currently being implemented and evaluated in the MedCERTAIN project, funded by the European Union under the Action Plan for Safer Use of the Internet. The aim is to develop a technical and organisational infrastructure for a pilot system that allows consumers to access metainformation about web-sites and health information providers, including disclosure information from health providers and opinions of external evaluators. The paper explains the general conceptual framework of the model and presents preliminary experiences including results from an expert consensus meeting, where the framework was discussed.
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