What are the Hi-Ethics principles?
The document is entitled 'Hi-Ethics: Ethical Principles for Offering Internet Services to Consumers." It is a 14-point set of principles, verifiable through the URAC Health Web Site Accreditation Program, that the member organizations will follow in order to help consumers confidently realize the fullest benefits of the Internet to improve their health and that of their families. These principles set high standards for consumer protection, including privacy, security, quality of information, fairness of transactions and professional conduct.
Hi-Ethics members have launched an initiative to develop version 2 of the Hi-Ethics principles. U.S.-based health Web sites are encouraged to join the effort.
Why was Hi-Ethics formed?
Hi-Ethics was formed in November 1999 to address privacy, advertising and content quality issues for Internet health consumers. Hi-Ethics was incorporated as a nonprofit in November of 2000 and received 501(c)(6) tax exempt status in March of 2001. While the Internet presents enormous opportunities to empower consumers to take charge of their health and well-being, there are so many Web sites offering health information and services that consumers may have trouble distinguishing reliable Web sites from others. Hi-Ethics member companies have set standards to help operators of health Web sites offer quality services and to help consumers use the Internet to its greatest potential.
What will the Hi-Ethics principles accomplish?
By adhering to the principles, Hi-Ethics companies can help consumers access and identify health Internet information and services that are reliable, safe and trustworthy. Hi-Ethics members will provide online health services that reflect high quality and ethical standards.
Do these principles guarantee that a consumer's personal information will be protected?
The Hi-Ethics principles are some of the highest privacy protection standards of the industry. Consumers can be assured that Hi-Ethics companies -- companies that have obtained the URAC Health Web Site Accreditation seal -- will provide them with the information they need to wisely and securely use the Internet for their healthcare.
When will the principles be in effect?
The first round of URAC Health Web Site Accreditation seals, based on the Hi-Ethics principles, will be announced and displayed in December of 2001.
How were the Hi-Ethics principles developed?
Executives from Hi-Ethics member companies have met frequently since November 1999 to develop the principles. In January 2000, the companies enlisted the help of attorneys from Hogan and Hartson LLP, a Washington, D.C. law firm with extensive experience in health and Internet privacy and regulatory issues. We drew on each company's own policies and practices and compared them with ethical standards from medical, publishing and other fields. The goal was to establish principles broad enough to apply to a wide variety of health Internet businesses but also specific enough to really help consumers. Version 1 of the principles was released in May of 2000. Version 2 is being developed now, to be released in December of 2002.
Why develop industry standards now instead of waiting for government regulation?
Adopting responsible, ethical practices is in the best interest of the industry, as it stands to benefit from greater consumer trust. Hi-Ethics members can swiftly adopt industry standards and bring their benefits to consumers in a shorter time frame than government regulations. These industry standards have been developed by health Internet experts who have the power to implement them. This allows the industry itself to find innovative solutions that encourage business growth while at the same time helping consumers to achieve the fullest potential of the Internet.
Is Hi-Ethics opposed to government regulation?
No. We are in favor of the most ethical provision of health services over the Internet. We share a common goal with government policy makers, and that is to provide consumers with a secure and trustworthy health Internet environment.
How will these principles be verified and the companies kept accountable for adhering to them?
Hi-Ethics, Inc., relies on URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program to demonstrate adherence to quality standards based on the 14 Hi-Ethics Principles. URAC's broad-based, independent accreditation program will provide an ideal mechanism for health Web sites to demonstrate their commitment to quality and accountability.
Hi-Ethics and URAC share a common goal to establish and promote high standards for privacy, security, and information quality so that consumers can realize the fullest benefits of the health Internet. The 14 Hi-Ethics Principles released in May of 2000 have already guided the volunteer efforts of many health Web sites to implement consumer-friendly, ethically sound policies and procedures. A site's adherence to these principles is verifiable through URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation program, controlled and administered by URAC (www.urac.org).
How will consumers know a Hi-Ethics site when they see one?
Web sites that have gone through the rigorous accreditation process will be granted permission to display a branded accreditation trustmark, as well as a trustmark from TRUSTe, which serve as a guidepost for consumers.
Will Hi-Ethics expand its membership?
The founding members of Hi-Ethics, Inc., are eager to have other health Web sites endorse the Hi-Ethics principles. Health Internet sites should view the principles and plan steps for compliance.
Are the principles for all health Web sites?
These principles are intended to set a high standard for all Web sites offering health services, products and information to consumers in the United States.