Code of ethics

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Statement of purpose

Our purpose is to serve our audiences as a credible and useful source of online information and services. Our code of ethics helps us achieve this goal by identifying our values and how we will uphold them. The code reflects Kaiser Permanente's goal of providing accurate and up-to-date information that is presented with clarity and consistency. Furthermore, our code sets the course for providing online health information and medical advice in a manner designed to earn and maintain our users' confidence.

Scope

Our website (kaiserpermanente.org) has adopted this code of ethics for this website and all of the Web-related products and services directed by Kaiser Permanente's Internet Services Group.

Responsibilities

The managers of kaiserpermanente.org are responsible for ensuring that all site personnel adhere to this code of ethics.

Principles and standards

Principle 1: Quality

Our goal is to provide accurate, well-supported, meaningful information and services to Kaiser Permanente members and users of this website.

Standards

1.1 We have made a commitment to use content only from credible sources that have been reviewed and approved by us.

1.2 We will protect the integrity of the site by using health information from sources that we believe consistently provide relevant and useful information.

1.3 We will perform regular quality-assurance reviews to assess whether our content is current and consistent with current views and information.

1.4 We will mark all health content with the date it was created and/or the date of its most recent review.

1.5 Information pertaining to coverage, benefits, and rates, as well as information about Kaiser Permanente's awards and accreditations, will clearly indicate the time period to which the information applies.

1.6 We will provide users with information about our criteria for evaluating health content, including the basis on which we decide to provide links to other sites or services.

1.7 We will provide the qualifications for discussion group moderators and health care professionals who are responsible for Kaiser Permanente-originated health care content.

Principle 2: Truthfulness

Our commitment is to provide credible and accurate information and services to users. We will give users information to assist them in evaluating the credibility and relevance of the information and services we provide.

Standards

2.1 We will clearly identify the purpose and ownership of our website.

2.2 Where we reproduce content created by third parties, we will clearly disclose the source of the material.

2.3 Where applicable, we will clearly distinguish health information from advertising or other content intended to promote products or services.

2.4 We will notify users of any known conflicts of interests by identifying any third-party involvement or influence in creating, selecting, or preparing health information content that appears on our health website.

2.5 We will clearly inform users of which services or areas on this website involve interactions with health professionals who are guided by professional ethical standards.

2.6 We will advise users of any material limitations on the use of our site as a source of health care information and services. In particular, we will state that online health services and information cannot replace the relationship between a health professional and a patient, and that users should always consult with a professional for diagnosis and treatment of their specific health concerns. We will also stress that the site is for non-urgent purposes only.

2.7 We will advise users of any significant limitations on the use of our site as a source of information about benefits, coverage, services, locations, and products.

Principle 3: Informed consent

We will adopt and implement a comprehensive Privacy Statement that informs users when we are collecting their personal information on the site so that they can choose whether to allow the information to be gathered, used, or shared. We will also inform users of the risks inherent in online health care interactions.

Standards

3.1 We will publish a Privacy Statement that clearly describes when and how we collect personal information on the site, the purposes for which we collect this information, with whom it will be shared, and how the information will be used.

3.2 We will take commercially reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of users' personal information. We will not use or disclose personal information without users' consent unless authorized by law, and we will not sell, rent, or share personal information about users of our site. We will encourage users to consult our terms and conditions  and Privacy Statement  for further information and details about our privacy policies, standards, and measures.

3.3 We will make it clear to users when they are about to purchase products or services from Kaiser Permanente.

3.4 We will inform users of reasonable expectations, risks, and responsibilities associated with the use of our online services.

Principle 4: Professionalism

We will make public service crisis communications our first priority when appropriate and deliver them as quickly as possible. All Kaiser Permanente professionals who provide medical or health plan information, services, or advice online will be required to maintain their professional standards.

Standards

4.1 Kaiser Permanente health care professionals working with kaiserpermanente.org will:

  • make the interests and concerns of our members and other users of this website their highest priority
  • hold users' personal information in confidence, consistent with kaiserpermanente.org policies and our Privacy Statement
  • disclose any personal, significant conflicts of interest to the appropriate individuals within the management of kaiserpermanente.org
  • maintain professional licensure, if applicable
  • strive to prepare content with integrity and thoroughness
  • promptly correct any erroneous information when it is brought to their attention

4.2 Only trained and qualified Kaiser Permanente professionals will provide Kaiser Permanente-sponsored medical or health information in the contact a pharmacist section.

4.3 Message board moderators and health care professionals providing Kaiser Permanente-originated health care content will disclose their qualifications on the site.

4.4 Kaiser Permanente health professionals providing information in the message boards section will not give personal medical advice.

4.5 Pharmacists will provide drug information but will not provide personal drug advice online.

4.6 Kaiser Permanente health professionals moderating the message boards section, the contact a nurse section, and the contact a pharmacist section will clearly and accurately disclose the limitations of online advice. Also, they will provide information to help users understand when to seek face-to-face interaction with a health care provider.

4.7 We reserve the right to notify law enforcement or take other measures to intervene if it is reasonable to conclude that a user appears to be at risk for harm to self or others or is in medical peril. We will exercise this right in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

Principle 5: Responsible partnering

Our goal is to partner only with credible organizations. (In this Code of Ethics, "partner" refers to those organizations with which we have an alliance of a business nature.)

Standards

5.1 We will clearly disclose on the site any significant business relationships between our site and partnering organizations.

5.2 When we enter into business relationships related to this website, we will make reasonable efforts to ascertain whether our partnering organizations have implemented relevant privacy policies, appropriately handle secured transactions, and/or meet other business criteria determined by us.

5.3 To help us achieve our goal of partnering only with credible organizations, we will encourage users to notify us if their interactions or business transactions with our partners are unsatisfactory.

5.4 If we provide a link to a partner's website, we will clearly identify the nature of our business alliance.

Principle 6: Web links

We strive to link only to websites of credible organizations. In this code of ethics, "Web links" refers to non-Kaiser Permanente websites to which we provide links for the convenience of our users, but with whom we have no business relationship.

Standards

6.1 External health-related sites to which we provide a Web link must meet the following criteria:

  • The linked site complements our site's information and services.
  • The linked site offers products, services, and/or information relevant to Kaiser Permanente members and users of this website.

6.2 We will link only to websites that we have reviewed and approved, or that we use to reference source material.

6.3 When users choose to link to an external site, we will clearly advise them that they are exiting our site.

6.4 The selection, placement, and format of Web links will be at the discretion of our website management. We will reserve the right to remove a link to an external website.

6.5 To protect the integrity of our content, we will not position Web links to external sites in a manner that could lead a user to think that the link is part of our page design or our content, as can sometimes occur with advertisements and banner ads.

6.6 We will inform users that, unless we state otherwise, providing a Web link does not imply benefit coverage or formal endorsement by Kaiser Permanente, and that we do not vouch for or assume responsibility for the material contained on the sites to which we link.

Principle 7: Accountability and responsiveness

We will take our users' feedback and concerns seriously.

Standards

7.1 We are committed to providing easy-to-use tools for users to share feedback or complaints about this website.

7.2 We make every reasonable effort to respond to all reasonable inquiries from members and users in a timely and appropriate manner.

7.3 We will provide clear opportunities for users to obtain more information about our products or services by posting contact phone numbers, online response forms, or e-mail addresses.

7.4 We will give clear instructions for subscribing and unsubscribing to e-mail alerts and e-newsletters.

Principle 8: Access to site information and policies

We will make it easy for users to read and understand information on our site, including our policies and disclaimers.

Standards

8.1 We will strive to present information, product descriptions, and services in language that is clear, easy to read, and appropriate to users.

8.2 We will make our code of ethics, Privacy Statement, editorial policy, and disclaimers as easy as possible for users to find and understand.

8.3 We will provide our users with system requirements for optimal viewing and secure use of our site.

8.4 Whenever we offer PDF files, we will provide a link users can follow to obtain the free software needed to view the PDF.

8.5 We will inform users that, except for personal or nonprofit educational use, no part of our website may be reproduced in any form or by any means without written permission from Kaiser Permanente.

8.6 We will make it easy for users to find and use services, information, and resources on our website.

Principle 9: Privacy and confidentiality

We will take commercially reasonable precautions to protect the confidentiality of users' personal information. We will not disclose personal information without users' consent unless authorized by law, and we will not sell, rent, or share users' personal information. Please see our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Statement for further information and details about our privacy policies, standards, and measures.

Bibliography

1. HON Code of Conduct (HON Code) for medical and health websites, April 1997
http://www.hon.ch/HONcode/Conduct.html

2. Guidelines for Medical and Health Information Sites on the Internet: Principles Governing AMA Web Sites: 2000
http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/full/283/12/1600Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.

Personal information

As used in this code of ethics, the term "personal information" means any information we collect that can be linked to the user as an individual. That includes mailing address, e-mail account, Internet IP address, demographic information, any unique numerical identifier, and personal health and diagnostic information.

Last updated: September 27, 2011