In today’s environment, a practice website is a nearly essential element to a well-rounded marketing strategy. A strong website is an effective and cost-efficient way to promote a dental practice. It also can provide information to current and prospective patients. Practice websites are considered business promotion by Texas State Board of Dental Examiners and must comply with the Board’s rules regarding advertising.
Overall, the Board’s business promotion rules require dentists to communicate truthfully to the public. To that end, Rule 108.59 delineates the four essential disclosures required by dental practice websites. These components represent the minimum information that should appear on a practice’s website. In addition, the Rule specifies that this information should be “clearly” disclosed meaning that it is easily identifiable by the general public.
A practice website should first disclose ownership of the website. The owner of a website is the person or entity with control over the domain name and who is authorized to make changes to the site. This is important because responsibility for the website’s content falls to that person or entity. For most dental practices, the owner of the practice website will be the individual dentist or that dentist’s business entity.
Second, a website should disclose the services provided by the practice. When listing services provided, a general dentist must take care to ensure that the listing does not imply specialization. Rule 108.55 requires a general dentist to include the notation “General Dentist” or “General Dentistry” directly after the dentist’s name. A general dentist who describes services such as porcelain crowns, dental implants, dentures, and porcelain veneers, must also specify that he or she is a General Dentist. Of course, a dentist who has met the requirements of a recognized specialty may include those credentials when listing services provided.
Third, a practice website should disclose the location and contact information for each office. At a minimum, this would include the practice name, practice address, telephone number and fax number. If the practice maintains more than one office, the contact information for each location should be disclosed on the website. Many offices also host an email address for the convenience of their patients and prospective patients. This email address should be for general information and inquiries only. Care must be taken so that protected health information is not exchanged when communicating via email, unless the email is encrypted.
Finally, a practice website should disclose the licensure and qualifications of each dentist and associated health care provider. Each dentist should specify that he or she is licensed to practice in the State of Texas and include any other states, or countries, of licensure. A description of the dentist’s formal educational background and subsequent dental training should also be included. A dentist may publicize professional honors and awards as long as the statement is true and subject to reasonable verification by the public. Rule 108.62 requires that the publication of an award or recognition also state the year or time period of receipt and clearly name the awarding organization or entity. Associated health care providers such as dental assistants and dental hygienists should also be disclosed on the practice website along with Board certifications, formal education and professional recognitions.
To ensure that a practice’s marketing materials and website fully comply with Board requirements, it is necessary to review the Business Promotion rules at 22 Texas Administrative Code 108, Subchapter E. A link to all Board rules can be found on the Board’s website: www.tsbde.state.tx.us.
Laura Diamond is a Partner with Dalrymple, Shellhorse, Ellis & Diamond, L.L.P. in Austin, Texas (www.dsedlaw.com). She represents dentists in licensing and compliant matters before the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners. Ms. Diamond may be reached by phone at (512) 422-8810 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information in this article is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. For legal advice regarding a particular situation, the reader is advised to contact an attorney.