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The commitment to reliable health and medical information on the internet

HON was 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 transparent information.

HONcode 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 HONcode.

Regular monitoring:
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: online complaint reporting

HON Facts

The 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.

HONcode 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.

What is the HONcode certification?

The HONcode: Principles

  Principle 1 Authority
Give qualifications of authors

Principle 2

Information to support, not replace

Principle 3

Respect the privacy of site users

Principle 4

Cite the sources and dates of medical information

Principle 5

Justification of claims / balanced and objective claims

Principle 6

Accessibility, provide valid contact details

Principle 7

Financial disclosure
Provide details of funding

Principle 8

Clearly distinguish advertising from editorial content

The HONcode: a Certification System

  • Who can 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.

  • The request for certification is explicit and voluntary (Requests are handled through the HON website ).

  • Review for 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 (see below) 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.

  • Active 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.

  • Regular monitoring: 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.

  • Compliance 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.

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