If you consider your medical practice’s website as only a marketing tool, you might not think that making it secure is all-that-important. However, many doctors are offering online repeat prescriptions, email subscriptions, patient sign-in options, and a lot more that make use of sensitive data. What’s more, trust is crucial in a relationship between doctor and patient, and using SSL lets you establish that trust a little better.
What is SSL?
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. It’s a protection for websites that provides automatic encryption for any data traveling from the site to the host’s server, meaning it’s much harder for hackers to steal and decipher. A website using SSL is immediately recognizable to visitors. Instead of having a ‘http’ in the URL, it produces a ‘https’, often with a visible “lock” symbol in most browsers. It’s an immediately recognizable signifier of a trustworthy website. There’s nothing more damaging to the brand of a practice than looking like they’re untrustworthy.
We wrote more about this here if you’re interested.
If your website makes any use, at all, of visitor data, then you are going to have to secure it. To do otherwise leaves it vulnerable to getting stolen. This goes for anything as simple as a contact form that asks patients to leave an email address or phone number. But you might have services on your site that make use of their patient IDs and other private forms of identification. Medical details have proven to be even more lucrative and highly sought after by hackers than financial details, so they must be protected. Otherwise, the risk to the data becomes a very real legal risk.
The financial details matter, too
Perhaps you sell medical supplies on the site, too, such as over-the-counter medicine, approved supplements, or patient devices. To order them, patients will have to enter not only personal data but specific payment details, too. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard makes acquiring an SSL certificate a necessity. Not only are you at legal risk. If you’re noncompliant, then the financial institution you use to handle online payments can demand a fine that will increase over time.
Improve your site’s marketability
As mentioned, when you get an SSL certificate from an official Certificate Authority, it is going to be recognized as secure by the visitor’s browser. They will see that mark of trust and know their data is protected. The safer they feel using it, the more likely they are to recommend it, as well. Even if you have a great website with lots of services, information, and medical advice, they’re not likely to refer others to it if they don’t trust it. Search engines take the same approach. Sites without an SSL are likely to appear much lower in search rankings than those that have one.
If your website looks more legitimate and secure, then your practice is going to look a lot more professional and trustworthy. Nowadays, using SSL on your site establishes a visible mark of trust for visitors. But if you use the site to capture patient or visitor data of any kind, you might very well be legally obliged to secure it.