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The Real Front Door to Your Practice

Your Website: The Real Front Door to Your Practice banner image

Your website is an invitation to patients to learn about your practice. It should show your practice in its best light and invite visitors to learn more.

Websites, like real-world practices, also have to comply with legal requirements. An effective website is a work in progress, one that requires regular updates to keep it working the way you want it to, so that it’s accurate, welcoming and in compliance.

An inviting website should include:

  • Contact information in a prominent location.
  • Concise biographies of doctors and staff.
  • A list of services offered in the practice.
  • Payment policies and a list of accepted dental plans, if any.

Remember that you are competing for your visitors’ attention. Studies suggest that people spend as little as 15 seconds looking at a website before they move on. Aim for a clean, easy-to-understand layout, avoiding long technical explanations. Keep things friendly, engaging and personal.

Another key design element is to make your website responsive, which simply means that it will display properly on devices ranging from smartphones to desktop monitors.

Beyond the basics are websites which feature custom content, patient reviews or photos of actual patients. Bear in mind that it is imperative to make sure that you secure written permission from any patient whose images or other identifiable information are used.

Legal concerns

Compliance with legal requirements is essential. For example, your site may be required by law to have a privacy policy (sometimes called a privacy notice). Even if it is not required, you may wish to develop one anyway. The website privacy notice tells visitors what personal information you collect via the website and how that information is used and disclosed. Note that this is different from a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Notice of Privacy Practices, or HIPAA NPP.

HIPAA-covered dental practices that have websites must prominently post the HIPAA NPP on the website and make the NPP available through the website. The ADA Complete HIPAA Compliance Kit offers a sample NPP. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office for Civil Rights also provides model NPPs on their website.

If your website includes content directed to children younger than 13 years of age, or you have knowledge that your website is collecting personal information (including internet protocol addresses, or IP addresses) from a child younger than 13 years of age, you may be required to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA. If COPPA applies, you must post specific privacy policy information and obtain verifiable parental consent, among other compliance obligations. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers a resource on complying with COPPA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal, state and local laws impact dental practice website design when it comes to accommodating site visitors. You can improve your website’s accessibility by including a descriptive text equivalent (alt text) for each image and graphic so that a user with impaired vision using assistive technology can understand what is being displayed. Videos should include audio descriptions of images to make the videos accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired, and should provide text caption synchronized with the video images to make videos and audio tracks accessible to people who are deaf or have partial hearing loss.

In addition to ensuring your website complies with accessibility regulations, consider posting an accessibility statement with information about how people with disabilities can obtain assistance accessing content on your website. Check federal, state and local regulations that would impact your design, the information you provide and/or the language or symbols you use to deliver it all.

Be careful not to create a potential claim for false or misleading advertising. For example, avoid statements such as “satisfaction guaranteed” or “totally painless.”

If your website includes any endorsements for which the endorser is compensated in any way (even with a gift card) or is associated with the practice (such as a staff person or his or her spouse), the endorser’s relationship to the practice should be disclosed.

To help ensure your website is compliant, the ADA Center for Professional Success offers the resource, Seven Tips to Check Your Website for Legal Risks, which is available for free to ADA members.

The best and most effective dental practice websites are both engaging and legally compliant. Although the task of building a website may seem daunting at first, careful planning ahead of time can save time and trouble later and give your patients the best possible experience from the moment they find you online.


Five Digital Dental Marketing Tactics

Once you’ve got your website in place, it’s time to put it to good use. Here are some tips from PBHS, the only marketing services company endorsed by ADA Member Advantage.

  1. Stay at the top of Google search by optimizing your website for voice search. The way we search by voice — conversationally — has a significant impact on search engine optimization.
  2. Increase your social media engagement by using Instagram Stories and don’t be afraid to share behind-the-scenes content.
  3. Use Facebook and Instagram advertising, the most cost-effective forms of digital marketing. Advanced targeting allows you to deliver relevant Facebook ads to more qualified patients within close proximity to your practice.
  4. Capture new patients — even outside of office hours — by adding a live online chat service to your website.
  5. Invest in Google Ads and choose a Google Ads Certified strategist with experience in dental campaigns.

For more tips or information on PBHS’s full range of products and services, visit pbhs.com.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice. Dental practices that require legal advice should consult an attorney licensed to practice in their jurisdictions.

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