Other Codes and Rating Systems

All rating systems have their pros and cons; therefore no single system will ever be adequate for a consumer to rely on. For instance, we’ve discovered troubling and inconsistent policing of the HONCode, finding it on many websites that don’t actually subscribe to all of the 8 principles. When complaints are filed against a site, action may or may not be taken. Eight months after filing a complaint for one popular site, we still note that most of their articles don’t have dates or author attributions, two important components of the HONCode. We have found the Health on the Net Foundation (HON) is largely unresponsive to inquiries.

One of the things we encourage consumers to do is to review multiple recommendations and guidelines (e.g., from us, HONCode, the AMA, and others), and develop their own set of criteria that works for them.

Disclaimers and Considerations

Even our rating system is far from perfect. Websites are constantly undergoing revision and a site we rated even a month ago can be completely changes and turned into some sort of spam site overnight (which we’ve seen happen more times than we can count). Other times, even when you make your best efforts to figure out what a site is about, you can still make mistakes because ultimately, we’re human and so are the judgments we’re making about other sites. As humans, we have and will continue to make mistakes.

But we’re committed to doing the best job possible, given all the information we can read and glean from any website we review.

One of the things to be aware of is that an article may follow all of these guidelines to a tee, and still not be accurate. Why? Because large publishers know about these guidelines and publish their articles to publicly adhere to them, without putting the mechanisms in place to actually follow them. For instance, I’ve consulted with large online health companies where they claimed every article on their website was reviewed by a physician or medical director, but few, if any, really were. Nobody can tell you that a company is actually doing what they’re claiming to do, so at the end of the day, you will always be left with imperfect information based upon company’s own self-reports (and perhaps an external verification or two).

We hope you find this information perhaps helpful in your own online research and travels.