What’s an SSL certificate and why does my dental website need one?
Excellent questions! Let’s dive right in.
Google encourages all website owners to maximize their online security and obtain an SSL certificate. What’s more, SSL certificates are particularly crucial for healthcare websites.
Proper cybersecurity is essential for all medical practice websites. Dental websites are no exception.
As you know, to remain HIPAA-compliant, all practices must adhere to HIPAA security rules. These rules are designed to ensure that sensitive patient information remains safe and confidential at all times.
An SSL certificate is not explicitly mandated by HIPAA rules. However, SSL is the clear choice in cybersecurity and by far the best, easiest, and most affordable way to secure your dental website.
We at Practice Tech Solutions recommend that all dental practices obtain an SSL certificate. To learn more about SSL certificates, what they do, and why you need one, please read on.
What's an SSL Certificate?
An SSL certificate is the internet’s premier tool for keeping sensitive information private.
SSL stand for “Secure Sockets Layer,” which we know doesn’t really clarify anything. But basically, an SSL certificate scrambles information going to or from your website so that potential hackers won’t be able to read or change it.
SSL encryption levels reach up to 256 bits. This means that binary sequences (strings of 1 and 0) in SSL encryption can reach up to 256 digits in length. That’s enough to, in theory, store all digital information currently existing on Earth.
In other words, SSL encryption is highly advanced and nearly impossible to hack.
SSL certificates allow for the secure digital transmission of credit card numbers, bank information, usernames and passwords, and just about any other piece of sensitive information.
If you ever type something, and the text replaced with a bunch of dots, it’s probably encrypted using an SSL certificate.
An SSL certificate also allows Google to verify that your dental website really is owned by your dental practice. It encourages Google’s algorithm to trust you, and thus to rank your website highly in search results.
Do you know that little padlock icon to the left of the URL in your browser’s address bar? In Google Chrome, it looks like this:
That icon means your website connection is secure. The communication between your browser and the website’s server is encrypted.
If a hacker intercepts the data sent from website to browser or vice versa, they will not be able to read or modify it in any way.
In addition to the padlock icon, a secure website will include HTTPS in its URL.
HTTPS stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure,” which is a programming term that basically means “don’t worry about it it’s not important.” HTTPS simply assures web browsers that a website is secured through an SSL certificate.
If you’re interested in installing an SSL certificate right now, Google Domain makes the process easy.
Why Does My Dental Website Need an SSL Certificate?
There are tons of reasons why your dental website needs a secure certificate. Here are 5 that stand out:
1. Protect Patient Data
Just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not worth mentioning!
An SSL certificate will provide added security to your dental website. It encrypts all data going to or from your site and ensures that, even if the data is intercepted by hackers, they will neither read nor tamper with your sensitive patient information.
It also protects payment information, if you’d like to offer the option for your clients to pay online. Not all dental practices do; it’s up to you.
But if you do want to have remote payment as an option, get an SSL certificate.
2. Protect Your Website
In addition to securing the data passing to and from your dental website, SSL will protect your website itself from hacking, malware, and eavesdropping.
SSL certificates are also great for protecting you and your clients from phishing schemes. Phishing is when a hacker impersonates another website hoping to trick users into providing their username, password, and other info.
An SSL certificate will act as a stamp of authority proving that your dental website is legitimate. Patients will know to trust your site
3. Improve HIPAA Compliance
As mentioned earlier, SSL is not strictly required by HIPAA cybersecurity rules. However, an SSL certificate is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to secure your dental website and reduce the risk of violating your HIPAA compliance.
Think about your “Contact Us” form. When you ask patients to describe their reasons for reaching out, you’re asking them to digitally transmit PHI (protected health information). Even something as mundane as a toothache is sensitive patient information that must be kept safe at all times.
SSL certificates are the best way to do that.
4. Foster Trust with Patients
Let’s be honest: that little padlock icon in your address bar just looks good, right? Even if you didn’t know exactly what it meant, you knew it had something to do with security.
A little peace of mind goes a long way.
Almost all major websites use SSL certificates. In fact, you may be interested to know that many browsers, including Google Chrome, show a warning message next to any URL that is not secured by an SSL certificate.
This means that any website without an SSL certificate immediately looks a tiny bit suspicious.
Remember, trust is the backbone of successful dental practices and of successful healthcare providers more generally. If you care about fostering trust between you and your clients, that alone should be reason enough to grab an SSL certificate.
5. Enhance Your SEO
Google gives priority to websites that are SSL-secured. It’s not a huge factor in Google rankings, but it’s a factor nonetheless.
This makes sense, right? Google wants to show users search results that are relevant but also safe. SSL certificates tell Google’s algorithm which sites are the safest.
Hence, snagging an SSL certificate is a quick and easy way to boost your SEO.
We know that cybersecurity can be a little intimidating for dental practice owners when just starting out.
Securing patient data sounds reasonable enough. But once all those acronyms start flying, it can be a little difficult to know where to begin.
If you’re interested in boosting the security of your dental website, please check out these HIPAA and IT support services from Practice Tech Solutions.
We’ll advise you on which SSL certificates will best suit your dental website.
We enjoy working with small dental clinics across the country and want to do everything we can to help your practice succeed.
For more tips on jump-starting your dental clinic’s digital presence, have a look at this post on integrating teledentistry into your dental practice.
Speaking of cybersecurity, is your dental practice still using Internet Explorer as its primary web browser?
If so, you need to upgrade immediately or risk having your HIPAA compliance lapse. Read up on Internet Explorer retiring for more details.