VICUS.COM (28 Oct. 2000) -- The American Accreditation HealthCare
Commission (also known as URAC), a nonprofit charitable organization
founded in 1990 to establish standards for the managed-care industry,
has formed an advisory committee to develop standards for accrediting
health-care websites (URAC, 2000). They are not the first and will
probably not be the last word on this subject (Marwick, 2000).
However, URAC is experienced in the credentialing process. Since
1991, it has issued more than 1,600 accreditation certificates to more
than 300 organizations that provide managed-care services to more than
120 million Americans, according to the organization.
As part of its initial efforts, URAC has appointed 27 members of
its Health website Advisory Committee panel to look at issues ranging
from privacy and professionalism to candor and accountability (click here for
details). URAC has brought together representatives from a variety of
organizations that have developed ethical or quality guidelines for
health websites, including the Internet Healthcare Coalition,
HI-Ethics, the American Association of Health Plans and the American
Click here to
read John Russo's article about his four simple
standards for assessing medical information on the
The committee will meet
over the course of the next few months to develop a draft set of
health-Web-site accreditation standards, according to a URAC press
release. Once a draft is completed, it will be released for public
review and comment. In addition, URAC will test the draft standards on
several websites to ensure that its ideas are practical and
URAC officials hope to finalize a set of standards in spring 2001,
with implementation of the accreditation program to follow later in
The challenge for URAC goes beyond credentialing. It should develop
criteria that will foster what is best about complementary and
alternative medicine (CAM) on the Internet.
websites that promote alternatives must focus on issues of safety
and efficacy, as well as the role and evidence for CAM therapies in
relation to other treatments. Model complementary therapies should
show a degree of improvement that fosters enhanced wellness and
quality of life.
The fact is that the future of health care is not in the
mechanistic approach to treating disease that has been dominated by
allopathic medicine for the past century. Rather, it is in a more
long-term, comprehensive approach to health and living that encourages
a complementary mix of the best of holistic and allopathic therapies.
My hope is that as URAC and others develop standards for
accrediting health websites, they will find ways to embrace the
holistic contributions of CAM and not become lost in a mechanistic
maze of dos and don'ts.
Russo Jr., PharmD, is senior vice president of medical
communications at Vicus.com. He is a pharmacist and medical writer
with more than 20 years of experience in medical education.