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Risk Management & the Medical Practice Web Site

Recent research tells us that patients who surf the web for healthcare information, prefer to get that information from their own doctors’ web site more than from any other source.

Physicians are responding by utilizing their practice site to not only provide healthcare information, but supplement communication with their patients. As medical practices increasingly develop their own web sites, standards, guidelines for use and liability are growing concerns.

Providing healthcare information on-line comes with an immense responsibility – both ethical and legal. If a practice web site provides healthcare information that is inaccurate or out of date, physicians may leave themselves open to legal risk and liability.

So what are the key points for a practice to consider when developing and maintaining their web site?

  • Establish Web Site Review Group – A web site review group should propose and review site content – including linked sites – for accuracy, appropriateness and usage. Ensure that proper permission for usage is obtained from all sources.
  • Familiarize Yourself With Established Guidelines – Familiarize yourself with ethical guidelines for on-line healthcare content from reputable ehealth organizations such as the URAC .
  • Establish a Privacy Policy – Establish a posted web site privacy policy , site disclaimer(s) and, if appropriate, terms of use policy.
  • Protect Privacy – Protect patient privacy when collecting personal medical information on-line through your web site by utilizing encryption technology and firewalls.
  • Follow Privacy Policy – Follow the established practice privacy policy in all cases and in all respects.
  • Adopt Standards & Process Adopt standards and process for on-going site content review and maintenance. This will ensure that the healthcare information provided on your site stays up to date.
  • Consultant Site Review – To minimize liability, subcontract site review and content development to others outside the practice that have expertise in ewriting for healthcare organizations.
  • Insurance Coverage – Obtain insurance coverage, or rider, to cover liability associated with your site. These policies are becoming much more common.

To adequately harness this rapidly developing trend, it is crucial that physicians and other healthcare organizations become aware of erisk issues, be proactive in addressing and managing these issues and make the informed decisions necessary to limit liability.

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