It is imperative for healthcare providers to stay abreast of regulations and standards. Medical websites that fail to comply with ADA and HIPAA regulations may be subject to fines from the Department of Health and Human Services. As part of this page, we will discuss what these regulations mean for your website and how you can ensure it is compliant!
How Does ADA Compliance Affect Websites?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in 1990 to prevent disability discrimination. Among its responsibilities is ensuring that websites are accessible to individuals with visual, hearing, or physical disabilities. It’s important to note that the law doesn’t just apply to public accommodations; it also applies to employment and telecommunications services offered by private entities.
What Does This Mean for Your Practice Website?
To be ADA compliant, your website must adhere to specific guidelines. These requirements include:
- Video Captions or Sound Files: If there is any audio content, a transcript should be provided for those who cannot hear it. By default, all videos should be captioned.
- Flash alternatives: If your website uses Flash, an accessible alternative must be available.
- Navigation: The main page of your website should be accessible only through the keyboard (tabbing between links) and by using screen reader software. It should also follow common web conventions regarding how visitors can navigate back and forth within the browser.
- Content: You must ensure that all of the content on your website is accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies. In addition, this includes links, images, and forms so that people with disabilities may access them using appropriate adaptive equipment. Likewise, every image should have alt text (the alt attribute provides a brief description of what is within an image to help screen readers read it to their users).
Why Is HIPAA Compliance Important for Websites?
It is not simply a matter of placing a lock icon on your website where you can find important information if you wish to be HIPAA compliant. Medical information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
These provisions apply to healthcare providers, health plans, clearinghouses (companies that handle claims), as well as their business associates who have access to this sensitive information.
Why is this important for your website?
HIPAA compliant website design is a complex process, and the law applies to various aspects of your business. You should be aware of the following requirements:
- HIPAA websites require that all forms asking users for sensitive information include a link at the top or bottom with detailed information about how the data will be used.
- Accessibility: The ADA contains many of these requirements, but HIPAA also includes requirements to make your website accessible to individuals with disabilities.
- Business Associates: Outsourcing any work involving PHI (protected health information) is covered by this provision of HIPAA. An agreement with your business associates should be in place that specifies what they can and cannot do with the data they gain access to from your site.
- Security: In accordance with HIPAA, you must take reasonable security measures. Additionally, it is necessary to have a privacy officer who ensures compliance with the policies.