Why Healthcare Providers Need Terms of Use and Privacy Policies for Their Websites

It has never been easier to put up a website. If you are a healthcare provider, a website is not just a great way to advertise your practice to potential patients. It can also give you an outlet to share your medical knowledge and expertise with the rest of the world.

You also need to protect yourself legally. You have probably seen a link labeled “terms of use,” “terms and conditions,” or “terms of service” on most popular websites. More and more, you are seeing other links to a site’s “privacy policy.” Are these items you need to have on your own healthcare practice website? The answer is an unqualified “yes.”

Terms of Use

Whatever name it goes by, a “terms of use” page basically contains legal disclaimers related to the content of your website, and spells out the conditions under which visitors may access and use the information provided. Strictly speaking, you are not legally required to publish a terms of use on your website, but it is best practice to have one.

The main reason for this is that a terms of use can limit your liability in the event someone misuses or misapplies your content. This is particularly critical when it comes to websites that contain medical information. As we all know, the Internet is not infallible. Even the best-written, best-edited sites contain factual errors. The last thing you need is for someone to rely on a mistake on your website, injure themselves, and then sue you.

This is why the terms of use should make it explicitly clear that nothing contained on the website constitutes individual medical advice. Under no circumstances should anyone, including an existing patient, rely on your website in the event of a medical emergency. And visitors must know that simply accessing your website does not create any legally binding provider-patient relationship.

Privacy Policy

Unlike a terms of use page, privacy policies are legally necessary if your website actually collects personal information from users. This includes something as simple as an email address. Many healthcare websites feature an online contact form. If your website does, then you absolutely need a privacy policy.

Essentially, a privacy policy does this:

  • It explains to users what information you are collecting. This includes technical data such as device identifiers, web addresses, location information, and “cookies.”
  • It explains how you will use or analyze any information collected.
  • It explains the circumstances under which you may share the information with third parties, including companies that may host your website or provide you with data storage services.

Keep in mind that unlike the typical blog or small business website, your medical practice is subject to HIPAA and other healthcare-specific privacy laws. You need to take this into account when creating a privacy policy for your website. This is why you should work with an experienced healthcare lawyer who focuses on assisting small and mid-sized practices with these types of compliance matters.

Learn more about our advertising reviewbiometric information protection, HIPAA compliance, and corporate compliance planning work by reviewing the resources on our website. If you’re ready to schedule a free consultation with one of our Illinois or Wisconsin healthcare attorneys, call our office at (312) 985-6484 or click the button below.

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