Health site garners accreditation

Health site garners accreditation

A consumer-oriented Web site run by the National Library of Medicine has received accreditation from an organization that promotes standards in the health care industry.

MEDLINEplus.gov is the first government-run Web site to receive the URAC Health Web Site Accreditation designation from URAC, a Washington group also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission.

Eve-Marie LaCroix, chief of NLM's Public Services Division, said she sought accreditation because the other 15 sites that received URAC's stamp of approval were commercial sites. NLM is a part of the National Institutes of Health.

Accreditation was a 'very, very thorough process,' LaCroix said. The commission had to assess whether MEDLINEplus met 53 criteria, including customer service, customer privacy, frequent updating and accessibility to the disabled.

MEDLINEplus began as a program to develop Web pages on health topics that consumers were frequently asking about, LaCroix said.

The Web site now contains pages for almost 550 separate topics, LaCroix said. Each page lists the results of a preformulated search on that topic within the library's comprehensive MEDLINE database of research articles, plus other consumer-oriented online articles published by NIH and other research organizations. The library has also licensed about 150 tutorials from the University of Iowa's Patient Education Institute.

Searching on MEDLINE, which indexes medical and scientific journals going back to the mid-1960s, can be confusing to lay people. 'It really is professional research literature,' LaCroix said.

This fall, NLM plans to debut a Spanish version of MEDLINEplus.

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