Project Description

The number of health information web sites and online services is increasing day by day. It is known that the quality of these web sites is very variable and difficult to assess; we can find web sites published by government institutions, consumer and scientific organisations, patients associations, personal sites, health provider institutions, commercial sites, etc. On the other hand, patients continue to find new ways of reaching health information and their physicians and more than four out of ten health information seekers say the material they find affect their decisions about their health itself. Thus the choice of appropriate evaluation criteria as well as the development of tools to support the labelling process (retrieval of unlabelled web sites, monitoring of labelled web sites) are both crucial and challenging.

Organisations around the world are working on establishing standards of quality in the accreditation of health-related web content. However the establishment of codes of conduct or ethics is not enough in the medical domain where the quality of information delivered from medical web sites may affect the health of the citizens. Self-adherence to such codes is nothing more than a claim or a pledge with little enforceability. It is necessary to establish rating mechanisms, either by third party accreditation, or by creating portals where medical web sites are organised and characterised against certain labelling criteria.

In order for these mechanisms to be successful, they must be equipped with technologies that enable the automation of the rating process, such as information extraction techniques that allow the continuous monitoring of labelled web sites alerting the labelling agency in case some changes occur against the labelling criteria, or web crawling and spidering techniques that allow the retrieval of new unlabelled web sites, their characterisation and addition in a medical thematic portal.

Based upon state-of-the-art technology in the areas of web crawling and spidering, multilingual information extraction, semantic resources and quality labelling, MedIEQ will pave the way towards the automation of quality labelling process in medical web sites. MedIEQ will deliver tools that crawl the Web to locate medical web sites in seven different European languages (Spanish, Catalan, German, English, Greek, Czech, and Finnish) in order to verify their content using a set of machine readable quality criteria. MedIEQ tools will monitor already labelled medical sites alerting labelling experts in case the sites’ content is updated against the quality criteria, thus facilitating the work of medical quality labelling agencies.

MedIEQ continues and builds upon the work of previous projects in the area of medical quality labeling (MedCIRCLE, MedCERTAIN, WRAPIN) and quality labelling standards (QUATRO). It aims to tackle the main problem of current medical quality labelling mechanisms, that is, the need for a continuous review and control of the accredited or filtered medical web sites, a process which requires a huge amount of human effort. To achieve this, MedIEQ integrates the efforts of relevant organizations on medical quality labelling, multilingual information retrieval and extraction, semantic resources, from six different European countries (Spain, Germany, Greece, Finland, Czech Republic, Switzerland). The resulting technology is expected to have a significant impact on medical quality labelling assisting the work of labelling experts, increasing the number of labelled medical sites across Europe and their effective monitoring, and thus improving the quality health knowledge disseminated through the Web.