commitment to reliable health and medical information on the internet
founded to encourage the dissemination of quality health information
for patients and professionals and the general public, and to
facilitate access to the latest and most relevant medical data through
the use of the internet.
The HONcode certification is an ethical standard aimed at offering
quality health information. It demonstrates the intent of a website to
publish transparent information. The transparency of the website will
improve the usefulness and objectivity of the information and the
publishment of correct data.
The HONcode is a code of ethics that guides site managers in setting up
a minimum set of mechanisms to provide quality, objective and
transparent medical information tailored to the needs of the audience.
Sites applying for certification and sites already certified undertake
to respect the HONcode and the requirements for certification.
HON cannot guarantee the accuracy of medical information presented by a
site and its completeness at any given time, but possession of the
HONcode seal allows a site to demonstrate its intention to contribute
to quality medical information through the publishment of objective and
is the oldest and the most used ethical and trustworthy code for
medical and health related information available on Internet.The
HONcode is designed for three target audiences: the general public, the
health professionals and the web publisher, actively involving the site
owner in the process of certification.
The HON Foundation is a
Non-Governmental Organization, internationally known for its pioneering
work in the field of health information ethics, notably for the
establishment of its code of ethical conduct, the
When a website is first certified by the HONcode, it is considered as a new HONcode
certification and it is valid for a period of 1 year. Following this, the website must
be re-assessed and recertified for continued HONcode certification. This is part of the
agreement when the site is first submitted for certification, which is communicated to
the webmaster and consent is expressly obtained before requesting the HONcode certification.
The HONcode annual re-assessment is carried out by the HONcode expert team which is composed
of expert professionals. The HONcode annual re-assessment now has a membership fee which contributes
to the cost of the re-assessment process.
In addition to the annual review
we rely heavily on user vigilance to report alleged non-compliance with
the HONcode, as we cannot cover the entire Web. Many alerts come to us
from sharp-eyed surfers motivated by civic responsibility. We applaud
and encourage these alerts as a vital component of self-regulation and
as a contribution to our work.
Civic sence of responsibility:
HONcode is the most widely accepted reference for online health and
medical publishers. Currently the HONcode is used by over
7’300 certified websites, more than 10 million pages,
covering 102 countries.
The HON web site
is visited by 27’000 visitors world-wide per day.
Toolbar: search engine and checker of the certification status
Automatically checks a
site’s HONcode status when browsing health web sites. The
search engine indexes only HONcode-certified sites. HONcodeHunt
currently includes millions of certified medical and health Web pages.
The HONcode: Principles
Give qualifications of
support, not replace
Respect the privacy of
Cite the sources and
dates of medical information
claims / balanced and objective claims
valid contact details
Provide details of
advertising from editorial content
The HONcode: a Certification System
request it? Any health or medical web site, intended for
patients, health professionals or the general public, whether or not it
has a strictly health or medical focus.
request for certification is explicit and voluntary
(Requests are handled through the ).
certification: Each request for certification is
examined by a HONcode review committee including professional medicals.
HON makes a thorough visit of the site and verifies if all
eight of the HONcode ethical principles ()
are respected. If some principles are missing in the web site, HON and
the site owner work together in order to bring the site into compliance.
certification: A site which is found to respect the
eight HONcode principles is given a unique dynamic seal to place on
their pages. The seal is directly linked to a HONcode certificate
located on the HON website. This certificate specifies how
the certified website complies with the HONcode principles.
An annual re-assessment is carried out beginning one year after the initial certification
and is a paid service, dependent on the type and popularity of the site.
Periodic reviews may also be carried out following a complaint or technical malfunction detected
by our monitoring services.
assurance: Mechanisms have been implemented in order to
ensure compliance and detect violations of the HONcode. HON is the only
organization to enforce its code through a formal complaint mechanism.