Does My Medical Practice Need a Website?

Written by on December 31, 2013 in Features - No comments

Medical practices, in general, are small businesses, and small businesses advertise to grow their businesses. Therefore, having a website is an important component to any successful advertising campaign. Websites are “the new storefronts” and medical practices should not be missing out on this valuable opportunity.

Acknowledging the fact that doctors are either some of the first or some of the last to adopt new forms of media and marketing to maximize their practice, the world is constantly evolving and patient behaviors are changing.

Patients are spending more time online, searching the Internet for answers to their medical questions. Many surfers, between 50 and 90 million, are researching health-related questions. They get their answers from a variety of online resources, and eventually some will seek to establish a patient-physician relationship for specific medical advice and treatment. This is your core audience. Traditional means of finding a physician are still used (i.e. word-of-mouth, yellow pages), but  it is becoming more common for patients to choose or evaluate their physicians from their selection of choices on the Internet. This is especially true for prospective patients who have just recently relocated to a new area.

Having a medical practice website that is attractive, concise, well organized, and easy to navigate, can reap many benefits for a practice, including:

  • Increased marketability to prospective patients, including information about the practice’s mission, location, and medical services to new patients
  • Improved patient services with downloadable patient forms, and easy directions to the practice
  • Enhanced professional image among colleagues, an important referral base. Additionally, adding the web address to marketing material, business cards, and other office letterhead can increase awareness

Design Tips for a Medical Website

Some basic tips to keep in mind when designing any medical practice website are:

  • Use a good color scheme to enhance readability
  • Leave white space for the eyes to rest – a crowded page is more difficult to read
  • Speed is essential. Pages should load within 8-15 seconds. Don’t “bloat” pages with too much text or graphics. If copy runs too long, make another page
  • Use a consistent navigation so the user can easily traverse the site
  • Limit use of multimedia, animation, and Flash to appropriate areas. These can slow down a site and frustrate the viewer
  • Use clear, sharp photos of the office, patients, and medical staff
  • KIS (Keep It Simple) – Starting and ending a medical web site project can be challenging. Therefore, it’s recommended that practices start with a finite scope, then add to the web site after a few months of service. In the world of web, often less is more

6 “musts” for a medical practice website

  1. Bio Page. The most online traffic will be to your bio page of physicians and staff. Make sure all information is current and complete, including any new specialties, certifications and medical associations to keep patients informed.
  2. Patient registration and forms. Ensure patients can make appointments, register and access important forms no matter where they are. Putting the registration form under “new patient” or “welcome” on one’s site will allow patients to find it easily. A registration form is okay to have on your website, but avoid posting any forms about patient’s personal medical information because they would not be secure and could be a HIPAA violation.
  3. Accessible contact information. Display contact information clearly on every page. Make sure it shows up on local search results, and include the address on the footer of each page.
  4. Services and insurance. List all services and insurance companies your practice accepts. Practices should keep this open-ended, so that if the patient’s insurer is not listed, he or she can call for options.
  5. Timely news and updates. Make sure to display recent blogs, news and other alerts or updates to make sure the website looks fresh and timely. This helps patients feel comfortable that their doctor is engaged with the community and current issues. It also makes the practice look fresher, bigger and more sophisticated. Practices will also be rewarded by Google if they show they are constantly updating the site and will rank higher than other practices.
  6. Patient education resources. Patients are relying more and more on the Internet for medical information and news, which can often lead to confusion and inaccurate diagnoses. With so many people looking for health information online, it is critical your healthcare practice website include easy to understand educational content and that you direct patients to the information after a diagnosis is made. It also plays an important role in your online marketing efforts. If you provide patient education on your website and a patient is searching for a particular set of symptoms or conditions, they are much more likely to find you if your content is relevant to their search. And what better way to find a qualified provider than through the educational content on your website.

Once You Have a Website

If your medical practice has a website, it may have been a while since you last updated it, or perhaps you’re not using it to its fullest potential. One option is to include frequently asked questions (FAQs) online. You can also use your website to offer online scheduling for things such as flu-shot clinics, or to offer downloadable electronic forms. And don’t forget about promotion. If you have a flatscreen TV set in your waiting room, you should have information playing about your website.

Attract with a low-risk offer

Another option to attract viewers is to have an irresistible low-risk offer on the practice homepage for a prospective patient enticing them to want to take the next step and learn more about your practice, services and staff. A low-risk or irresistible offer is usually something free for the prospective patient or reader of your web site. It can be a coupon, a free pamphlet, a checklist, or a free DVD that engages and entices the reader to want to know more about who you are and what you offer. Just about everyone will give you their email address to get something free. If you make it easy to get ‘something of value’ for free, people inevitably will take you up on the offer. You then have a lead and can start accumulating a clearer message to those now showing interest in your practice.

Increase Your SEO

High traffic is important but all your efforts will be for nothing if your visitors can’t find you when using important keywords and phrases. Realize they’re not going to Google Search the name of your practice. They’ll most likely search your name, city and services offered. See Lori Gertz’s article, “The Importance of Search Engine Optimization for Your Practice’s Website” in this issue for more detailed information on increasing your SEO.

Get rid of FLASH on your site

You have between 3 and 5 seconds for your web site homepage to load. Visitors judge the value of your practice and business in a matter of seconds. Bear in mind, the more you add to your site, the longer it takes to load. The amount of visibility you’re losing with a Flash movie on your homepage makes it more likely the viewers will leave your web site rather than fight with the hassles of adding a Java download to speed up their viewing. And iPhones and iPads do not support Flash, so you’ll lose some of your potential viewers. Google doesn’t read Flash script either, so it won’t help you climb up the SEO ranks either.

Final Thoughts

These tips are only some of the actions you can take to design an attractive, inviting website and to increase the effectiveness of your web presence. A combination of professional web design and regularly updated, relevant content (i.e. stories, articles, blog posts, etc.) are able to make your website more interesting and cause your visitors will stay longer and interact with you more. Google also gives websites that keep current information recognition with higher rankings in their results pages. As long as your site is dynamic and informative, your patients will keep visiting and you’ve increased the growth potential of your medical practice.

By Thomas Hibbard
Creative Director, Med Monthly

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