International e-Health Code of Ethics Vision statement

The Internet is changing how people receive health information and health care. All who use the Internet for health-related purposes must join together to create an environment of trusted relationships to assure high-quality information and services, protect privacy, and enhance the value of the Internet for both consumers and providers of health information, products, and services. The goal of the "e-Health Code of Ethics" is to ensure that all people worldwide can confidently, and without risk, realize the full benefits of the Internet to improve their health.

Introduction

Health information has the potential both to improve health and to do harm. All people who use the Internet for health-related purposes must be able to trust that the sites they visit adhere to the highest ethical standards and that the information provided is credible.

Because health and health care are critically important to people, the organizations and individuals that provide health information on the Internet have special, strong obligations to be trustworthy, provide high quality content, protect users’ privacy, and adhere to standards of best practices for on-line commerce and on-line professional services in health care.

Guiding principles

1. Candor and trustworthiness

Organizations and individuals providing health information, products, or services on the Internet have an obligation to candidly disclose:

— factors that could influence content;

— potential risks of providing personal information on the Internet.

2. Quality

Organizations and individuals offering health information, products, or services on the Internet have an obligation to:

— provide high-quality information, products, or services;

— provide means for users to evaluate the quality of health information.

3. Informed consent, privacy, and confidentiality

Organizations and individuals providing health information, products, or services on the Internet have an obligation to:

— safeguard users’ privacy;

— obtain users’ informed consent when gathering personal information.

4. Best commercial practices

Organizations and individuals who sponsor, promote, or sell health information, products, or services on the Internet have an obligation to:

— disclose any information a reasonable person would believe might influence his or her decision to purchase or use products or services;

— be truthful and not deceptive;

— engage in responsible business relationships and affiliations;

— guarantee editorial independence;

— disclose the site’s privacy policy and terms of use.

5. Best practices for provision of health care on the Internet by health care professionals

Health care professionals and organizations who provide health information, products, or services on the Internet have an obligation to:

— adhere to the highest standards of professional practice;

— help patients understand how the Internet affects the relationship between professional and patient while adapting the highest professional standards to the evolving interactions made possible by the Internet.