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Our users

The "active seal" design means that the HON team can at all times measure how frequently and from where on the Web the HONcode is consulted. In the month of January, 2000, HON registered connections to the code from 5,559 external servers and 20,631 external Web pages.

One reason why the HONcode is so widespread today is because it was probably the first such service offered to the Internet community. Another reason lies in its brevity, simplicity and effort to address the main ethical issues. Also, links to the HONcode grow whenever influential bodies, such as the Mayo Clinic in the U.S.A., actively adhere to it and promote it [1].

In addition, the HONcode serves some basic needs. It helps heighten awareness among site developers and healthcare information-providers of the potential impact of their services on the lives of their users, thus encouraging them to provide reliable information. For Web users, whether patients on a specific information quest, care providers or just curious surfers, the HONcode acts as quick quality identifier, raises awareness of Internet self-regulation and fosters individual responsibility.

More users, growing quality-consciousness

Information providers and users on the medical Internet have grown far more numerous and sophisticated since the mid-1990s. Various estimates in 1999 put the total number of healthcare-related Web sites at anywhere between 10 and 20 thousand. Almost half the adult population of the U.S. alone has Internet access, according to a 1999 Harris Poll [2], and three-quarters of these have looked for health information on-line.

HON's own October-November 1999 user survey [3] shows a record 71% of all HON survey respondents saying that the quality of medical/health information on the Internet needs to improve.

How to be a vigilant user

Unfortunately, we cannot banish incompetence or fraud from the medical Internet. If you come across a healthcare Web site that you believe is either possibly or blatantly fraudulent and does NOT display the HONcode, please alert Quackwatch [4]. Of course, if such a site DOES display the HONcode, immediately.

HON cannot prevent dishonest operators from simply cutting and pasting the HONcode seal onto their Web sites in a bid to enhance their credibility. We do conduct our own random checks on subscribers to ensure they remain compliant with the HONcode. But we also rely heavily on vigilant Web surfers to alert us [5] to dubious sites - and they do.

To be certified by HON, a Web site must formally apply for registration [6]. If accepted, it must subsequently comply with all the principles enumerated in the HONcode. Compliant sites identify themselves by the blue-and-red HONcode hyperlink (or "active") seal displayed at a prominent location, usually the bottom of the home page.

There are three quick ways users can check whether a chosen site featuring our seal is a bona fide HONcode subscriber.

1. By placing their mouse cursor over the featured HONcode seal, they should see a special HONcode ID number appear along the bottom of their on-screen frame. Here for example, is the National Library of Medicine's MEDLINEPlus ID number:

2. Users can also simply click on the HONcode seal featured by the site in question. This should link them directly to a page on HON's site that summarizes the former site's HONcode registration status and displays the code's full text. If the seal is not "active ", that is, if there is no hyperlink to the personal and unique HONcode identification page, then the site is not HONcode compliant and users should alert us at .

3. If still unsure about whether or not a given site is a HONcode subscriber, users can also use HON's special verification facility [7]. Go to this page on our site and enter your given site's URL. HON's search engine MedHunt [8] will display the verification results almost instantaneously.


Note: The fact that a given Web site does not bear the HONcode seal and is not listed on MedHunt, whether as an HONoured or auto-indexed site, is NOT necessarily an indication of poor quality.

The Web is growing so fast and is so diverse that HON (or any other single organisation, for that matter) is unlikely ever to review and monitor all sites with possible healthcare-related content.

[1] Mayo Clinic article:
[2] The Harris Poll, August 5, 1999
[3] Survey report:
[4] Quackwatch:
[5] Policing the HONcode:
[6] HONcode membership application:
[7] HONcode Site-Checker:
[8] MedHunt:

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