Net Scoring ®: criteria to assess the quality of Health Internet information

Logo Ecole Centrale de Paris Logo de Centrale Santé (Ecole Centrale de Paris)

8 Rue Jean-Goujon - 75008 PARIS ; Tél. +

Last update : 18/07/01 (version 3). 
Version 3, posted in January 2000, will be finalized after the E-Health ethics initiative of the Internet Healtcare Coalition
Version 2 was posted November 1998 and Version 1, November 1997.

See also the French version


The goal of this paper is to provide a set of criteria that can be consistently used to assess the quality of health information on the Internet. To ensure objectivity in the development of these criteria, a diverse group of individuals, including representatives of professional organizations, MDs, engineers, and lawyers was assembled. If these criteria are used, the quality of the web sites could be greatly improved and end-users would receive the greatest benefit. There are 49 criteria which fall into eight categories: credibility, content, links, design, interactivity, quantitative aspects, ethics, and accessibility. Each criterion has a weight: essential criterion rated from 0 to 9, important criterion rated from 0 to 6, and minor criterion rated from 0 to 3. The total of these weighted criteria gives the overall score of a site (maximum=312 points). The first version of the Net Scoring was largely inspired by the work of Ambre et coll.

Tableau 1 : List of  criteria to assess the quality of Health information

1 Credibility
(99 points)

1.1 Source

1.1a Name, logo and references of the institution on each document of the site (essential criterion)
1.1b Name and title of author on each document of the site (essential criterion)

1.2 Disclosure

1.2a Context: source of financing, independence of the author(s)  (essential criterion)
1.2b Conflict of interest (important criterion)
1.2c Influence, bias (important criterion)

1.3 Updating: actualization of the site including date of creation, date of last update et eventually date of last version (essential criterion)

1.4 Relevance/utility (essential criterion)

1.5 Editorial review process (essential criterion)

1.5a Webmastering process  (important criterion)
1.5b Scientific review process (important criterion)

1.6. Target/purpose of the web site ; access to the site (free or not, reserved or not) (important criterion)

1.7. Quality of the language and/or translation (important criterion)

1.8 Use of metadata (essential criterion)

2 Content
(87 points)

2.1 Accuracy (essential criterion)

2.2 Hierarchy of evidence (important criterion)

2.3 Original Source Stated (essential criterion)

2.4 Disclaimer (important criterion)

2.5 Logic organization (navigability) (essential criterion)

2.5a Quality of the internal search engine (important criterion)
2.5b General index (important criterion)
2.5c What’s new page (important criterion)
2.5d Help page (minor criterion)
2.5e Map of the site (minor criterion)

2.7 Omissions noted (essential criterion)

2.8 Fast load of the site and its different pages (important criterion)

2.9 Clear display of available information categories (factual data, abstracts, full-text documents, catalog, databases) (important criterion)

3 Hyper-links (45 points)

3.1 Selection (essential criterion)

3.2 Architecture (important criterion)

3.3 Content (essential criterion)

3.4 Back-links (Web Impact Factor) (important criterion)

3.5 Regular verification of hyper-links operationality (important criterion)

3.6 In case of modification of the site structure, link between old and new HTML documents (important criterion)

3.7 Distinction between internal and external hyper-links (minor criterion)

4 Design
(21 points)

4.1 Design of the site (essential criterion)

4.2 Readability of the text, images, or video (important criterion)

4.3 Quality of the print (important criterion)

5 Interactivity
(18 points)

5.1 Mechanism for feedback: Email of the author on every document (essential criterion)

5.2 Forums, chat (minor criterion)

5.3 Traceability: orbidden (or at least clear information) to use any way to load (nominative or not) data from users microcomputers (cookies, …) (important criterion)

6 Quantitative aspects
(12 points)

6.1 Number of machines (IP addresses) visiting the site and number of visualized documents (important criterion)

6.2 Number of press releases (minor criterion)

6.3 Number of scientific production from the site, including bibliometric criteria (minor criterion)

7 Ethics
(18 points)

7.1 Liability of the reader (essential criterion)

7.2 Medical privacy (essential criterion)

8 Accessibility (12 points)

8.1 Accessibility from the main search engines and catalogs (important criterion)

8.2 Intuitive address of a site (important criterion)


312 points maximum