An appealing, intuitive website is an important aspect of any business, but when you run a medical practice, you can’t rely on good copy and great graphic design to carry your site. No, the first thing your site should emphasize is HIPAA compliance – following the rules that exist to ensure the privacy of patients’ medical information. Too often, however, these two concerns are separated, with one set of professionals handling the HIPAA issues and another group the web design. Is it possible to combine the two and still get high-quality results?
The answer is a resounding yes, but it may not be easy. In order to produce a final site that’s both visually appealing and HIPAA compliant, most practices opt to work with designers who specialize in medicine-related sites, or who have experience in another protected area, such as FERPA or CFPB-bound sites. Whether you choose a specialty designer or not, keeping these five factors in mind will help you craft the best possible site.
One of the best ways to choose a web designer for your medical site is by finding out what companies have worked with practices you partner with or prominent medical systems. For example, Medical Web Experts lists Bridget Patient Portal, the Southern Ohio Medical Center, and Physicians For Women as past design clients and a quick trip to these sites will give you a feel for their work.
Dig For Knowledge
If you want to be sure that a designer has the necessary background to design a medical website, another approach you might take is to read any on-site writing they’ve done about HIPAA or to interview project leaders and team members about HIPAA compliance.
What does this look like? Nuanced Media, for example, is a prominent designer for the medical world, and they describe their approach to medical design on their website. A quick look at their page demonstrates that the company has done their homework about HIPAA regulations.
Clarify Your Needs
One reason that medical website design sometimes goes awry is because practices aren’t always clear about what they want or need from their site. Will patients be able to access medical records or make requests via your website? If so, you’ll need to discuss your encryption needs and authentication process with your designer. These factors should be at the core of your design, not add-ons. Be clear about your site goals and don’t allow designers to lead you down a path that doesn’t reflect your practice.
Know Where Sites Fail
If you think you’re clear on what it takes to design a HIPAA-compliant website, take a moment to work backward. Yes, you know what to put in, but do you know what to exclude? Too often, a basic medical site will fail on certain security measures, such as site integrity and data disposal. Knowing what not to do is every bit as important as knowing what to do.
Work With Business Associates
The final, key step to creating a great website for your medical practice is making sure that your designers are legal business associates. Under HIPAA, certain medical industry associates, including web designers, may be held liable for patient privacy protection – but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Rather, you should work with a business associate because they’re knowledgeable and trustworthy, not because you think you can shift the blame if privacy problems emerge down the line.
Medical websites are increasingly comprehensive, allowing patients to accomplish more without ever stepping into the office – but that only ups the ante around data security. Stay abreast of changing HIPAA regulations and push for the most stringent privacy practices for your site, even if that means going above and beyond the regulations.
You owe your patients only the best when it comes to protecting their information.