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Check Your Website for Legal Risks

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Your website is often a patient’s introduction to your practice. As such, you should not regard it as a completed project, but instead as something you periodically review, giving it a “check-up” to assess whether the information remains accurate and welcoming, and the site functions correctly. A practice’s website represents the face that it shows to potential patients. Therefore, you want to show the practice in its best light.

While your website may have a personal touch, it is important that it also complies with all federal, state, and local laws, and avoids any unnecessary legal risks. Thus, you should perform periodic check-ups of your practice’s website. When you do, these are some items to consider:

  1. Practice specific information
    Consider including the practice’s full legal name, as well as contact information, such as address, telephone number, and email.
  2. Legal and risk-related matters
    Elements on your website might include; a privacy policy, a HIPAA notice of privacy practices, terms of use, notice of nondiscrimination, and copyright notice.
  3. Images/third party content
    If you post patient images on your website, make sure you have appropriate permission to do so. Also ensure that your domain does not infringe on anyone else’s trademark.
  4. Advertising and endorsements
    Be careful not to create a potential claim for false or misleading advertising. For example, avoid claims such as “satisfaction guaranteed” or “totally painless.”
  5. Americans with Disabilities Act
    The Americans with Disabilities Act and certain other laws, such as Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, require dental practices to make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
  6. Payment information
    Websites that provide online payment services should provide proper safeguards to protect payers’ credit card information in accordance with state and federal law and applicable industry standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).
  7. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
    If your website includes content directed to children under 13 years of age, or you have actual knowledge that your website is collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age, you may be required to comply with COPPA, a federal law enacted to protect children’s privacy.

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

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