In an effort to ensure consumer confidence in the quality of online health information, Washington, DC-based URAC (also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission) developed its health Web site accreditation program in December 2001. Since then a number of insurers, including Aetna, VSP, Principal Financial Group, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, have attained the URAC accreditation, which must be renewed yearly.
URAC's health Web site accreditation program remains the first of its kind and promotes quality and accountability in online health information and services, according to Guy D'Andrea, senior vice president, URAC. "Our mission is to make a difference in the consumer's ability to identify quality," explains D'Andrea.
The program's measures for accreditation, reports D'Andrea, were developed by an advisory committee. "It was URAC's goal to make sure that there was a broad representation of stakeholders on the committee," he says. "The American Medical Association, consumers, health plans and health Web sites all had a voice in determining measures for accreditation." The standards base accreditation on a Web site's disclosure of financial relationships, links to other Web sites, privacy and security, and its consumer complaint mechanism. Additionally, in order to achieve accreditation, Web sites must illustrate a structured process used to develop and post content, says D'Andrea.