Fig 1. Operational model of the MedCIRCLE collaboration
Consumer and Public Health Informatics and ePublishing Lab


Collaboration for Internet Rating, Certification, Labeling and Evaluation of Health Information on the Web. An international collaborative effort to enhance the quality of health information on the web, and to develop semantic web technologies to guide consumers to trustworthy health information.


MedCIRCLE is currently being transformed into an international non-profit organization (the MedCIRCLE collaboration). This award-winning project (Janssen-Cilag Future Award) ended December 2003.

Figure 1 illustrates the operational model of health information providers collaborating in the MedCIRCLE. MedCIRCLE members are primarily trusted health information gateways, government portals, medical societies, accrediting organizations, and libraries. What they have in common is that the all are “third parties” which are in the business of describing, annotating, or making statements about other organizations, health information providers, or consumer health websites. For example, a medical society offering “recommended links for consumers” is a “gateway”. Rather than offering unspecific hyperlinks to “recommended sites”, the gateway can semantically enrich the endorsements by using a standardized vocabulary HIDDEL (Health Information Disclosure, Description and Evaluation Language)[16], expressed in XML/RDF, to report evaluation results in detail. Similarly, an organization in the business of “accrediting” health websites would use the vocabulary to express accreditation results. Among the current MedCIRCLE members are for example three major European gateway sites for consumer health information, two of whom are backed by official professional physician associations. Other health subject gateways, accreditation, or rating services are encouraged to join the Collaboration simply by implementing HIDDEL on their gateways. Eventually it is hoped to establish a global web of trust for networked health information.

Fig 2. The MedCIRCLE infobar

As illustrated in figure 1, MedCIRCLE members export HIDDEL/XML/RDF data into an Open Directory. Also, participating consumer health information websites can export disclosure and self-descriptive data into the Open Directory. Data in the Open Directory can be used by various applications and other websites under an Open Directory license, i.e. free of charge, as long as the originator of the data and MedCIRCLE are acknowledged, and the integrity of the data is left intact. For example, MedCIRCLE gateways can display the data of other MedCIRCLE members, search engines can use data to rank their results, health kiosks can use the data to facilitate access to trusted websites, and client-side software, e.g. browser plugins or “toolbars”, such as the MedCIRCLE infobar (Figure 2), can make use of the data.

Funding Agency

European Commission


Principal Investigator

  • Eysenbach, G.


  • Various investigators


Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network

Medical College, Barcelona

German Agency for Quality on Medicine, Rouen University

For more information about this project, contact:

Gunther Eysenbach