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Health on the Net Foundation goes Web 2.0

Denise silber

The subject of the quality of healthcare information on the Internet is rich and recurring. The main question we hear regularly is whether or not Internet users are finding quality health information. But it’s not the only one. There is also: how governments can/should protect citizens? And more recently, do Web 2.0 tools give users more power or make them more exposed to poor quality information?

This article focuses on Health on the Net. Established in 1995 in Geneva Switzerland, HON is the longest running, most widespread code of conduct dedicated to health and the Internet. HON will release its next Web 2.0 tool during the Health 2.0 Europe Conference, Paris April 6-7, 2010

HON plays a special role in France. In October 2007, after a lengthy review process, the French High Health Authority (Haute Autorité de Santé) accredited HON as its partner for the certification of health sites in France, in view of its simplicity, widespread presence, and accessibility for webmasters free of charge. 859 French sites are currently certified by HON, one of the largest numbers for a single country, except for the U.S.

To be certified, web sites commit to the respect of 8 principles that primarily concern transparency. HON certification status is indicated on the site by presence of the HON seal. HON uses online tools to monitor the certified sites and also performs a systematic annual review of each one. The HONcode is used by over 6,800 certified websites, covering 118 countries and has been translated into 26 languages.

In addition to the HONcode, HON has developed various search and other tools.

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Health 2.0 in Europe: Couldn’t? Wouldn’t? Does!

They said it couldn’t happen in Europe, that social media and online tools wouldn’t catch on, because the healthcare context was soooo different from the US. They said that Europeans don’t worry about access and cost, that they aren’t looking for information online because they they trust their doctors utterly and fully, and that European doctors don’t go online, except if they're Scandinavian.

Well, it just isn’t so! True collective intelligence will tell you that participatory medicine is a natural human instinct and that Health 2.0 is kicking up a storm in Europe this winter! Consumers and professionals are generating content everywhere, even though they don't necessarily cross language or country borders. Unfortunately, no one European organization is studying consumer health Internet usage trends on the same basis year after year, as is the Pew Foundation in the U.S. Nonetheless, there is empiric proof; during the current flu epidemic, information from informal sources in Europe is fully surpassing official data. Wikipedia is cited in a recent study by Manhattan Research as one of the most regularly used sites for physicians and consumers across Europe. Private initiative has generated many significant consumer/patient communities, several major physician community portals, online consultation sites, and more.

But, while users are generally "with it", Europe institutions are not. What is at stake is the future of ill-prepared healthcare organizations and institutions and the regulated healthcare industries.

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