Web Portals Should Offer Tangible Evidence of Privacy and Quality Practices

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As consumer-directed health plans become more popular, more and more consumers will use the Internet to research health plans, hospitals and other providers, and to seek health information. Accreditation is a credible way for organizations to demonstrate to consumers that they meet URAC’s high standards

Hospitals and health organizations host many of the 2 billion-plus health information sites on the World Wide Web, but they battle a lack of consumer confidence in the privacy and security practices of online health portals.

In this give-and-take environment where consumers want more Web-based health information but don’t know whether they can trust the source, Web portals need to offer tangible evidence of solid privacy and quality practices. Alan Spielman, president and chief executive officer of URAC, will make the business case for Web site privacy, security and accuracy when he addresses the 18th Annual National Managed Health Care Conference during sessions April 25 and 26 at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.

A March 23, 2006 report released by Forrester Research revealed that consumers visiting health Web sites tie their confidence in privacy and security to their trust of the organization hosting the site. The report specifically examined government health Web sites, often touted as one of the better sources for reliable health information. But in February, a widely circulated report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) documented significant weaknesses in controls designed to protect privacy and security on Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sites. With so much doubt circulating about the security of even government-sponsored health Web sites, consumers need even more assurance about security from hospital and health plan portals.

“As hospitals and other health organizations become more engaged in providing Web resources to aid in health outreach and care coordination, they need to be aware that credibility and trust are essential to this mix of high-touch and high-tech health care,” Spielman said. “Organizations need to address what it takes to create portals that serve as trusted, reliable resources for consumers seeking health-related information.”

URAC, an independent, nonprofit organization, is well known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation and certification programs. URAC pioneered Health Web Site accreditation in 2001 to assess the quality and privacy practices of accredited sites. The accrediting organization also offers HIPAA Privacy and HIPAA Security accreditation. URAC, the nation’s only organization that accredits health Web sites, updated those accreditation standards in January 2006, including additional protection of consumer information and more rigorous standards for editorial content review.

“Accreditation is a valuable tool for the industry, because it offers a seal of approval from a neutral third party that consumers can trust,” Spielman said. “As consumer-directed health plans become more popular, more and more consumers will use the Internet to research health plans, hospitals and other providers, and to seek health information. Accreditation is a credible way for organizations to demonstrate to consumers that they meet URAC’s high standards.”

Spielman will present “Making the Business Case for Web site Quality as Consumers Demand More Information on The Cost, Quality and Effectiveness of Healthcare” on Tuesday, April 25 at 3:30 p.m. and “Making the Business Case for Web site Quality as Consumers Demand More Information on Their Health and Health Care” Wednesday, April 26 at 2:15 p.m. For more information on the 18th Annual NMHCC, go to http://www.nmhcc.com.

Additional Reading: “URAC Health Web Site Accreditation Tames Internet’s Wild, Wild West”: http://www.urac.org/news_issue_briefs.asp

About URAC

URAC, an independent, nonprofit organization, is well-known as a leader in promoting health care quality through its accreditation and certification programs. URAC offers a wide range of quality benchmarking programs and services that keep pace with the rapid changes in the health care system, and provide a symbol of excellence for organizations to validate their commitment to quality and accountability. Through its broad-based governance structure and an inclusive standards development process, URAC ensures that all stakeholders are represented in establishing meaningful quality measures for the entire health care industry. For more information, visit http://www.urac.org

This press release was distributed through eMediawire by Human Resources Marketer (HR Marketer: http://www.HRmarketer.com) on behalf of the company listed above.

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Karla Hurter