Your website: The real front door to your practice
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.
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.
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.
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.
This article originally appeared in the ADA Dental Practice Success and was provided by the ADA Center for Professional Success. The Center provides practice management content and decision support tools with the goal of helping members practice successfully, learn conveniently and live well.