To attract and help the right clients, health and wellness coaches need to have a robust website that fully describes their services and products, and what sets them apart from other health coaches who provide wellness-related services and products. A typical website may list the different services, such as one-on-one coaching, group coaching, and educational or speaking services. The website may also describe the wellness coach’s philosophy to their practice, and whether it is based in nutrition, physical exercise, meditation, spirituality, stress management, functional medicine, holistic medicine, lifestyle medicine, integrative medicine or a combination of all of these. Finally, the health coach may try targeting individuals who suffer from specific chronic problems or specific conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, Lyme’s disease, mental illness, anxiety, depression, autism, just to name a few.
Websites for health and wellness coaches can raise legal red flags when they suggest that they can treat, cure or prevent disease or illness. Trigger words like “medicine” or “diagnose” or “treat,” along with listing the names of specific disease or illness like “heart disease,” or “diabetes” may imply to a person reading your website that you can treat or cure those diseases. Because health coaching is not a state-licensed profession, health and wellness coaches should avoid using such trigger words, even if the coach is licensed to practice a health profession, such as medicine or nursing or psychology, in a state.
What Can Health and Wellness Coaches State on Their Websites?
So, what can a health or wellness coach say on their website to minimize legal trouble? Ideally, health and wellness coaches should tell their website visitors that they can help people improve health and wellness by offering support, encouragement, education and accountability to meet health and wellness goals. Health and wellness coaches are experts in providing valuable information and education about important health topics, and they can tailor that information and education to their specific clientele. But they should not be trying to diagnose or treat underlying health conditions. Offering to review lab work or other medical testing, or “prescribing” nutritional supplements or other products suggests that the health coach may be seeking to treat or diagnose a health condition. Thus, the health and wellness coach should avoid mentioning lab work or medical test analysis on their website.
The lifestyle coach may still target certain groups of people who suffer from certain health conditions, but the coach should avoid the trigger words. If the coach is a licensed health professional, the coach can describe their credentials in their biography on the website, but there should also be clear language on every page of the website that the health and wellness coach is not offering medical advice or practicing as a licensed health professional.
What Kind of Legal Trouble Does the Health and Wellness Coach Face Anyway?
The biggest legal risk that a health or wellness coach faces if they use website language that suggests diagnosis or treatment of a health condition is possible prosecution of the unlicensed practice of medicine. See e.g., https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/health-coach-loses-free-speech-case-over-florida-licensing-law. Who would bother looking at your website and reporting you, you may ask? Well, the biggest culprits are competitors of health and wellness coaches, such as those who are licensed health professionals in a state and want to also provide coaching services. Someone has to tip off the government authorities, and it usually is those who are threatened by what you are doing in the marketplace.
So How Should a Health and Wellness Coach Develop Their Website to Avoid Legal Trouble?
You can either take what you learned from this blog post and scan your website for language that could pose legal problems or, you can hire an experienced healthcare lawyer with wellness law training to evaluate your website language for you. You should also look into adding necessary website disclaimers and policies to your website, which are available through our law firm. An experienced health and wellness attorney should be able to review your website language, as well as language in any other marketing materials, and flag words that could pose legal problems. If you would like the Center for Health and Wellness Law, LLC to help you reduce your legal risk from your website, please contact us today!