5 Compliance Pages EVERY Optometrist Website Needs (+ How to Get Them)

Optometrist website compliance pages

If you’re an independent optometrist, you don’t need anyone to tell you that running a business is a bit like juggling.

You have to work hard to keep all the balls in the air at once. There is a LOT to deal with.

These challenges include competition from corporate and franchised practices, keeping up with the latest industry methods, maintaining regulatory compliance, and balancing profitability with the need to provide quality customer care.

So in the midst of all this, it’s understandable that some of the boring bits of running your business get overlooked. And adding compliance pages to your practice website is about as dull as it comes.

BUT in this article I want to inform you about FIVE pages you absolutely MUST ask your website developer to include if you want to head off trouble down the road. After all, as any medical practitioner will tell you, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

I’m also going to give you some resources for generating these pages. Fair warning though, it’s ALWAYS best to have professional legal advice (and I encourage you to get some if possible), but the next best thing is an automatic website policy generator tool. The information that follows is generally applicable worldwide, but with a special Australian flavour.

A service which I highly recommend (I’m not an affiliate) is Termageddon. Speaking for myself, building websites since 2008, I can say that these guys are pretty much the gold standard for “website compliance pages as a service”.

Termageddon has a subscription product ($US 12 /mth or $US 119 /yr) where they automatically keep your website policies updated to keep you compliant with any changes in regulator disclosure.

Watch the following video from Hans Skillrud the VP of Termageddon, where he does an excellent job of explaining the most common website policy pages you might need.

Compliance Page Essentials

Before we get into the weeds, let’s do the TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version.

Each of these web pages serves a specific purpose, contributing to the civil legal protection of your website, enhancing user trust, and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations. Let’s go through each one:

1. Terms and Conditions Page

  • Purpose: This page outlines the rules and guidelines for using your website. It can include sections on copyright, business information, and the user’s rights and responsibilities.
  • Necessity: It’s essential for protecting your website legally by defining the terms under which your service is provided. It helps in limiting liability and sets out the legal jurisdiction and laws that will govern any disputes.
  • FREE Generator: https://www.termsandconditionsgenerator.com/

2. Product/Service Guarantees Page

  • Purpose: This page provides details on guarantees or warranties that come with your products or services. It codifies what customers can expect and the process for making claims.
  • Necessity: It’s vital for building customer trust and satisfaction. Clearly stated guarantees can also differentiate your offerings from competitors and can be a decisive factor for customers contemplating a purchase.
  • FREE Generator: https://termly.io/products/refund-return-policy-generator/

3. Disclaimer Page

  • Purpose: This page limits your liability for the use of your website. It often covers the accuracy of information, and the use of advice provided on the site.
  • Necessity: Disclaimers are necessary to protect you from legal challenges and claims related to the use of your website. They are particularly important for websites offering medical, financial, or legal advice.
  • FREE Generator: https://termly.io/resources/articles/medical-disclaimer-examples/

4. Accessibility Statement

  • Purpose: This statement outlines your website’s commitment to making its content accessible to individuals with disabilities. It may include the standards you adhere to (like WCAG), measures taken for accessibility, and how users with disabilities can request assistance.
  • Necessity: Ensuring your website is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is not only a best practice but also a legal requirement in some regions. It demonstrates inclusivity and can broaden your website’s audience.
  • FREE Generator: https://www.w3.org/WAI/planning/statements/generator/#create

5. Privacy Policy Page

  • Purpose: This page explains how your website collects, uses, and protects users’ personal information. It should detail the types of information collected, how it’s used, and how it’s kept secure.
  • Necessity: A privacy policy is legally required in many jurisdictions, especially if you collect personal data from users (e.g., through forms, cookies).
  • FREE Generator: https://visser.io/tools/living-in-australia/privacy-policy-generator/

Optional (kinda … but not really) Cookies Compliance Policy

  • Purpose: This page (or statement, often part of the Privacy Policy) informs users about the use of cookies on your website. It details what cookies are, how and why they are used, and how users can control or opt out of cookies.
  • Necessity: With laws like the GDPR and ePrivacy Directive in the EU, it’s legally required to inform users about cookie use and obtain their consent. This policy is crucial for transparency and user trust, as well as legal compliance. In Australia, the Privacy Act (1988) and the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) outline requirements for handling personal information, including obtaining consent. While not specifically about cookies, the principles apply if cookies are used to collect personal data.
  • FREE Generator: https://www.cookiepolicygenerator.com/cookie-policy-generator/

In summary, these pages are fundamental for minimizing compliance risk and building confidence with your website user base.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into each page, what could potentially go wrong if you don’t have one, and some of the things each page should contain.

1. Terms and Conditions Page

Scenario:

A new independent optometrist launches her optometry practice’s website to book appointments and sell eyewear but overlooked including a Terms and Conditions page. A promotional offer for discounted designer frames on her site led to confusion and over-demand when stock ran out quickly. A customer who missed out on the deal, felt misled due to the lack of clear promotion terms and threatened legal action for deceptive advertising.

For an independent optometrist who takes eye care appointments and sells eyewear both in-store and/or online, the Terms and Conditions Page should cover a variety of specifics to ensure clarity for users and legal protection for the business.


WHAT YOU MAY WANT TO INCLUDE

Introduction:

– Brief introduction to the optometry practice and the services offered.

– Explanation of the purpose of the Terms and Conditions.

User Agreement:

– Acknowledgment that by using the website, users agree to the terms laid out.

Appointments:

– How to book appointments online, including any cancellation policies.

– Disclaimer regarding the availability of appointments and potential for rescheduling.

Use of Website:

– Permissible and prohibited uses of the site, including copyright restrictions.

– Policy on user-created content, if applicable (e.g., blog comments).

Account Registration and Security:

– Requirements for registering and maintaining an account, for example for online sales.

– User responsibilities for maintaining account security.

Shipping, Returns & Refunds Policy

– Important if you sell products online such as contact lens consumables

Privacy Policy:

– Reference or link to the site’s Privacy Policy, detailing how personal and health-related information is handled.

Intellectual Property:

– Statement of ownership of site content, including text, images, and logos.

– Restrictions on the unauthorized use of the website’s intellectual property.

Limitation of Liability:

– Disclaimer of liability for information accuracy, website downtime, or third-party links.

– Limitation of liability concerning product use, especially for medical devices like prescription glasses.

Dispute Resolution:

– Preferred method for resolving user disputes (e.g., arbitration, mediation).

– Governing law and jurisdiction for legal disputes.

Modifications to the Terms:

– Statement that the optometry practice reserves the right to modify the Terms and Conditions.

Contact Information:

– How users can contact the practice for questions about the Terms and Conditions.

This structure ensures that users are well-informed about their rights and obligations when using the website for appointments and purchases, while also protecting the optometrist’s practice from potential legal issues.

FREE Generator: https://www.termsandconditionsgenerator.com/

2. Product/Services Guarantees Page

Scenario:

An optometrist offers Ortho-K treatments without a detailed Product/Services Guarantees page on her website, leading to a dispute with a patient who underwent Ortho-K hoping for perfect vision but achieved only partial improvement. Expecting a full correction based on his understanding of the treatment’s success, he was disappointed with the outcome and sought a refund or free additional treatments, believing the treatment’s efficacy was guaranteed.

While it could be included in your Terms and Conditions Statement, a separate Products/Services Guarantees can give much greater visibility to important information that you want your patients and customers to understand. Whether it be clinical services, online consumable purchases or in-store designer eyewear sales, a product/services guarantee reduces the potential for any confusion or misinterpretation.

Under the Australian Consumer Law, as regulated by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, businesses must meet a set of basic rights called consumer guarantees when they sell products or services.


WHAT YOU MAY WANT TO INCLUDE

Introduction:

– Briefly describe the purpose of the guarantee page and its importance to customer satisfaction and trust.

Scope of Guarantees:

– Clearly define what products (e.g., glasses, contact lenses) and services (e.g., eye exams, treatments) are covered under the guarantees.

Details of Guarantees for Products:

– Description of the quality guarantee for eyewear and consumables, including durability and defect coverage.

– Information on warranty periods for different products and what these warranties cover.

– Process for claiming warranty service or replacements for defective products.

Details of Guarantees for Services:

– Explanation of satisfaction guarantees for diagnostic, treatment, and other in-practice services.

– Conditions under which a patient can request a re-examination, adjustment, or refund for services if outcomes do not meet agreed expectations.

Limitations and Exclusions:

– Specify any limitations to the guarantees, such as normal wear and tear, accidental damage, or misuse.

– List services or products not covered by guarantees.

Procedure for Making a Claim:

– Step-by-step guide on how to make a guarantee claim, including contact details.

– Required documentation for a claim, such as receipts or proof of purchase.

Resolution Process:

– Expected timelines for claim processing and resolution.

– Description of potential resolutions, such as repairs, replacements, refunds, or service redo’s.

Modification of Guarantees:

– Statement that the optometrist reserves the right to modify the guarantees, with notice to customers.

Contact Information:

– Provide detailed contact information for customers to inquire more about guarantees or to make a claim.

This comprehensive approach ensures customers are well-informed about their rights and the optometry practice’s commitment to quality and satisfaction, fostering trust and long-term relationships.

FREE Generator: https://termly.io/products/refund-return-policy-generator/

3. Disclaimer Page

Scenario:

An optometrist in Brisbane regularly posts eye health tips on her practice’s website blog. One article recommended specific over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes, which was read and followed by a reader with a complex condition. The reader’s condition worsened, leading her to seek legal action against the optometrist for the advice perceived as medical, highlighting the blog’s lack of a Disclaimer Policy.


As an optometrist, incorporating a disclaimer page on your website, especially if it features content related to eye care, medical practices, or health recommendations, is crucial in mitigating potential legal risks.

A well-crafted medical disclaimer serves to clarify that the information provided on your site is intended solely for informational or educational purposes. It emphasizes that this content should not be seen as a replacement for professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment from qualified healthcare professionals.

By including a disclaimer, you’re effectively cautioning your site’s users that any decision to rely on the information presented is made at their own discretion and risk.

Such disclaimers play a pivotal role in minimizing your legal exposure should a user misinterpret or misapply the health information you provide, leading to adverse outcomes. Additionally, they guide your readers towards making more informed decisions, reinforcing the importance of consulting healthcare professionals for personal medical advice.

In essence, a disclaimer page is not just a protective measure for you as a practitioner but also a responsible practice that benefits and educates your audience about the nuances of health information and its application.


WHAT YOU MAY WANT TO INCLUDE

Purpose of the Disclaimer:

– A clear statement that the disclaimer aims to limit legal liability for the information provided on the website.

Nature of Information:

– Clarification that all content (tips, advice, information about treatments, eyewear products, medications, surgeries, and diseases) is for informational or educational purposes only.

Not Professional Advice:

– Explicit statement that the website content does not constitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

– Reminder that the content is not a substitute for professional consultation with a qualified healthcare provider or optometrist.

Individual Health Needs:

– Acknowledgment that eye health varies significantly among individuals, and advice or information provided may not be suitable for everyone’s specific health conditions or needs.

Call to Action for Professional Consultation:

– Strong recommendation for users to consult with a licensed optometrist or healthcare professional for personal eye care advice and before making any decisions based on the website content.

Accuracy and Completeness:

– Disclaimer of any guarantees regarding the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or timeliness of the information provided.

No Endorsement of Products:

– If applicable, a statement clarifying that mentioning eyewear products or medications does not imply endorsement or recommendation without professional consultation.

Limitation of Liability:

– A clause limiting the optometrist’s liability for any damages or harm resulting from the use of, or reliance on, the information provided on the website.

User’s Responsibility:

– Statement emphasizing that the use of the website’s content is at the user’s own risk.

Content Ownership and Copyright:

– Assertion of copyright over the website’s content and prohibition of its reproduction without permission.

Updates to the Disclaimer:

– Information on how and when the disclaimer might be updated and how users will be informed of these changes.

Including these elements in a Disclaimer page helps protect the optometrist from legal issues while ensuring that the website serves as a responsible source of information for the public.

FREE Generator: https://termly.io/resources/articles/medical-disclaimer-examples/

4. Accessibility Statement Page

Scenario:

An optometrist in Melbourne encounters legal challenges when a visually impaired user struggles to navigate her practice’s website due to its inaccessibility. The website lacked key accessibility features, such as text alternatives for images and keyboard navigability, making it difficult for the potential patient to book appointments or access vital health information.

In Australia, several laws and standards apply to digital accessibility, ensuring that websites and online services are accessible to people with disabilities. In the context of optometry practice websites, the following Australian laws and standards are relevant:

  • Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA): This is the primary legislation in Australia that aims to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in various areas of life, including employment, education, and access to services. Under the DDA, it’s unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their disability, which extends to the provision of information and online services. Businesses and service providers are required to ensure that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities, thereby preventing discrimination.
  • Australian Human Rights Commission: While not a law per se, the Australian Human Rights Commission plays a crucial role in enforcing the DDA and provides guidelines on website accessibility. It advocates for compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as a means of meeting the requirements of the DDA.
  • Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG): While WCAG itself is not a law, it is internationally recognized as the standard for web accessibility. The Australian Government has endorsed WCAG 2.0 (and later 2.1) for all government websites, and it serves as a best practice benchmark for private sector websites as well. Following WCAG guidelines helps ensure that websites are accessible to individuals with a wide range of disabilities.

Businesses in Australia, including small private practices are expected to make reasonable adjustments and take proactive steps to ensure their websites and online services are accessible to people with disabilities. This not only helps in complying with the DDA but also broadens the inclusivity and reach of their services. Failure to comply can lead to complaints under the DDA, potentially resulting in legal action facilitated by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

There are exemptions within the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA) that can apply to small businesses in Australia, particularly regarding the obligation to make their websites accessible. These exemptions often revolve around the concept of “unjustifiable hardship,” which considers the size, resources, and nature of a business when determining whether it is reasonable for that business to comply with certain accessibility requirements.

Unjustifiable Hardship

  • Definition: Unjustifiable hardship occurs when the adjustments needed to accommodate individuals with disabilities would impose an unreasonable financial, resource, or logistical burden on the business or organization.
  • Application to Small Businesses: Small businesses with limited financial and technical resources might argue that complying with certain accessibility standards (such as making significant modifications to their website to adhere to WCAG guidelines) constitutes unjustifiable hardship.
  • Considerations: When claiming unjustifiable hardship, businesses must consider the benefits that making adjustments would provide to people with disabilities against the cost and effort required to implement such changes. Documentation and evidence of the hardship might be necessary to substantiate such claims.

Factors Considered for Unjustifiable Hardship

– The size of the business.

– Financial resources available.

– The nature of the provided service.

– The cost of making the modifications or adjustments.

Process

  • Complaints and Mediation: If a complaint is made against a small business for failing to make their website accessible, the Australian Human Rights Commission typically first seeks to mediate the complaint. It is during this process that a business might argue that making the required adjustments would cause unjustifiable hardship.
  • Assessment: The Commission assesses claims of unjustifiable hardship on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific circumstances of each business.

It’s important for small business owners to be aware of these exemptions but also to understand that the overarching goal of the DDA is to promote inclusivity and accessibility for people with disabilities. Even if a small business qualifies for exemptions under the unjustifiable hardship clause, it is still encouraged to take reasonable steps within its means to improve accessibility, reflecting a commitment to serving all members of the community.

Why Include an Accessibility Statement

It is understandable for those in the community with disabilities (especially visual disabilities) to feel marginalized when an optometry practice fails to provide an accessible online environment. This potentially can lead to financial expense in terms of legal fees and potential compensation but also poses a risk to the practice’s reputation. Public knowledge of the case could deter prospective patients, particularly those concerned with inclusivity and accessibility, from seeking services from the practice. Moreover, the time and attention required to address the legal challenge would divert resources away from patient care and practice development.

The presence of even a minimalist yet clear Accessibility Policy on the practice’s website can play a crucial role in mitigating these risks. Such a policy outlines the practice’s commitment to making its services accessible to ALL patients. It also provides contact information for users to report accessibility issues and request assistance, demonstrating a willingness to address and rectify accessibility concerns proactively.

How to Make Your Website Accessible

It’s somewhat shameful to admit, but the web development community is still playing “catch up” when it comes to making online experiences that are accessible to people regardless of disabilities. The tools, approaches and processes for building accessible websites at an affordable price for small business still has a long way to go. But regardless, it would be worth having a conversation with your website developer about testing and fixing “low hanging fruit” accessibility issues. e.g. lack of contrast between foreground text and background color.

WHAT YOU MAY WANT TO INCLUDE

Commitment Statement:

– A clear statement of commitment to web accessibility, emphasizing the importance of making online resources available to all users, including those with disabilities.

Conformance Status:

– Information on the website’s current level of conformance with web accessibility standards, such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), specifying the version (e.g., WCAG 2.1) and conformance level achieved (e.g., Level AA).

Accessibility Features:

– A description of the accessibility features implemented on the website, such as keyboard navigability, text alternatives for non-text content, adjustable text size, and color contrast options.

Limitations and Alternatives:

– Identification of any known accessibility limitations on the website, the reasons for those limitations, and any alternative methods provided to access the content.

Feedback Process:

– Details on how users can provide feedback about the website’s accessibility, including contact information (e.g., email, phone number) for reporting issues or requesting assistance.

Response Timelines:

– Information on expected response times for accessibility feedback and requests for assistance, demonstrating the practice’s commitment to addressing concerns promptly.

Review and Update Procedures:

– A statement on how and when the Accessibility Statement and the website’s accessibility features will be reviewed and updated to improve or maintain conformance with accessibility standards.

Resources and Training:

– Mention of any accessibility training provided to staff or resources used in developing and maintaining the website’s accessibility.

Legal Compliance:

– Reference to relevant Australian laws and regulations concerning digital accessibility, such as the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA), underscoring the legal basis for the website’s accessibility efforts.

Contact Information for Accessibility Issues:

– Comprehensive contact details for users to get in touch with the optometry practice about accessibility issues, including a dedicated email address, phone number, and possibly a contact form.

Including these elements in an Accessibility Statement not only demonstrates the optometry practice’s dedication to inclusivity and legal compliance but also provides a valuable resource for users to understand the website’s accessibility features and how to navigate it effectively.

FREE Generator: https://www.w3.org/WAI/planning/statements/generator/#create

5. Privacy Policy Page

Scenario:

An optometrist in Adelaide, Australia, launches an online booking form for his practice without including a Privacy Policy, overlooking the requirements of Australia’s Privacy Act 1988 and its Australian Privacy Principles (APPs). This oversight came to light when a patient, concerned about the security of her personal health information online, lodged a complaint with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). The OAIC’s investigation into the practice for not having a transparent privacy policy revealed a breach of the Privacy Act, leading to a formal warning and a mandate for immediate correction.

Generally speaking, Australia’s privacy laws are not as stringent as those of the European Union (e.g. GDPR rules). Under the Australian Privacy Act 1988, small businesses with an annual turnover of less than 3 million AUD are generally exempt from the Act’s requirements.

However, this exemption does NOT apply to businesses that provide health services and hold health information, which would still need to comply with the Privacy Act regardless of their annual turnover.


WHAT YOU MAY WANT TO INCLUDE

Introduction:

– A brief introduction stating the purpose of the privacy policy and its importance in protecting patient information.

Scope and Application:

– Explanation of the types of personal and health information collected by the practice.

– How the information is collected (e.g., telephone, website contact form, booking app, in-person visits).

Information Collection:

– Detailed types of personal information collected (e.g., name, contact details, health information, payment information).

– Purpose for collecting each type of information (e.g., appointment scheduling, payment processing, providing eye care services).

Use of Information:

– How the collected information is used (e.g., for diagnosing and treating eye conditions, processing payments, sending reminders for eye exams).

Disclosure of Information:

– Circumstances under which personal information may be disclosed to third parties (e.g., referral to other health professionals, compliance with legal obligations).

– Assurance that information will not be sold or rented to third parties for marketing purposes.

Data Security:

– Measures taken to protect the security of personal and health information (e.g., encryption, secure servers).

– Policies on data breach response and notification.

Access and Correction:

– Patients’ rights to access and correct their personal information held by the practice.

– The process for patients to request access to, or correction of, their information.

Online Transactions:

– Security measures for online transactions, if applicable.

Third-Party Services:

– Disclosure about third-party services used by the practice (e.g., booking app providers) and how these services comply with privacy standards.

Cross-Border Data Flows:

– If applicable, information on the transfer of personal data outside of Australia and how it is protected (See also “Data Sovereignty“)

Privacy Policy Updates:

– Statement on how and when the privacy policy may be updated.

– How patients will be informed about updates to the privacy policy.

Contact Information:

– How patients can contact the practice for more information about privacy practices or to lodge a privacy complaint.

This comprehensive approach ensures transparency with patients about how their personal and health information is managed, aligning with the published Australian Privacy Principles and fostering trust between the optometrist and their patients.

In the Privacy Policy, the section dedicated to cookies should include detailed information to ensure transparency and compliance with privacy standards, especially given the use of a website for bookings and sales. Here’s what it should cover regarding cookies:

Definition and Purpose:

– A clear explanation of what cookies are (small text files placed on a user’s device) and their primary purpose (to improve user experience, track website usage, facilitate transactions, etc.).

Types of Cookies Used:

– Detailed descriptions of the types of cookies used by the website, including:

– Essential Cookies: Necessary for the website’s basic functionality and secure areas (e.g., shopping cart, booking system).

– Performance and Analytics Cookies: Collect anonymous data for statistical purposes on how visitors use the website, helping to improve it.

– Functionality Cookies: Remember choices users make (e.g., username, language) to provide a more personalized online experience.

– Advertising or Targeting Cookies: Used to deliver advertisements more relevant to the user and their interests.

Third-Parties:

– Information about third-party cookies if the website uses third-party services (e.g., analytics, advertising networks) that may set cookies on the user’s device.

User Consent:

– Explanation of how consent is obtained for cookie use (e.g., cookie consent banner, settings menu).

– Details on how users can withdraw consent at any time (e.g., changing browser settings, using privacy tools).

Managing and Disabling Cookies:

– Instructions on how users can manage or disable cookies through their browser settings.

– Links to resources or guides for popular browsers to help users understand how to block or delete cookies.

Impact of Disabling Cookies:

– A statement on how disabling cookies may affect the functionality of the website and the user’s experience (e.g., inability to use certain features, less personalized experience).

Changes to Cookie Policy:

– Information on how and when the cookie policy might be updated and how users will be informed of these changes.

This section should be written in clear, accessible language to ensure that all users can easily understand how cookies are used, their rights regarding cookie consent, and how they can manage their preferences. It’s also important to review and update the cookie policy regularly to reflect any changes in cookie usage or compliance requirements.

FREE Generator: https://visser.io/tools/living-in-australia/privacy-policy-generator/

CONCLUSION

Every small business should include certain pages on their website which outline your limits of liability, your processes and your operating procedures for users. In most cases, there is a regulatory incentive to make sure you have these covered, but it’s also “best practice” in setting clear expectations with your website users, your patients and your community.

If you’d like to discuss how you can bring your optometry practice website up to speed, reach out to us at Optics Digital Marketing by clicking on the “Book a Call” button of our website. We’d be happy to have a chat.

BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: Optics Digital Marketing, its owner and employees are in no way, shape, or form qualified to give legal advice. This article is purely informational, based on years of experience with helping small businesses plus general information sourced from around the internet. You should NOT rely on anything here as “legal opinion”. Seek your own legal counsel.

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