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How Web Accessibility Rules Affect Healthcare Providers

Regardless of potential lawsuits, making your website accessible now for those with disabilities is a recommended best practice for healthcare organizations

What is the issue?

Hospitals and health care entities are being challenged over the scope of their emerging responsibilities. Specifically as marketers steer users online to access more an more online services, healthcare providers are mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities who may be accessing these services.

What is at stake?

Noncompliance with disability laws not only interferes with quality patient care. It also can result in burdensome and costly legal and administrative costs, bad publicity, economic damages and, in some instances, loss of federal funding (including Medicare reimbursement).

What are the rules?

Health care entities have a legal obligation to accommodate disabled patients and members of the public. That obligation includes ensuring web services are accessible to individuals with disabilities.

How Web Accessibility Rules Affect Healthcare Providers

“Meaningful Access” Rule

The “meaningful access” rule, effective July 18, 2016, is intended to clarify parts of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, which prevents discrimination based on disability for certain health programs and activities.

According to the updated rule, if healthcare providers that receive financial assistance from the federal government provide services via electronic and information technology (EIT), those services must be accessible to people with disabilities.

The “meaningful access” rule applies both to the provider’s website as well as any other EIT used to interact with the public. Because most healthcare providers receive federal financial assistance in the form of Medicare, the “meaningful access” rule has broad implications for the U.S. healthcare industry.

Medicaid Rules for Managed Care Providers

As of July 1, 2017, all Medicaid managed care programs must have EIT that is “readily accessible,” which is to say that it complies with modern accessibility standards. The new regulation explicitly mentions two examples of such standards: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0, Level AA.

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