Taking Advantage Of The Net Effect

Author(s): 
By Jeff Hall, Editor-in-Chief

Have you taken advantage of the Internet to build your practice? Perhaps you’ve resisted the pull of new technology for one reason or another or maybe you have legitimate concerns about privacy issues, especially with the current emphasis on HIPAA. However, the emerging trends on Internet use, specifically as they relate to seeking health care information, are difficult to ignore.
Currently, 66 percent of adults in the United States are surfing the Web, according to the results of a Harris Interactive Poll released earlier this year. The pollsters estimate that 110 million adults in the U.S. have looked for health care information on the Internet.
If your practice doesn’t have a Web site or if your current site isn’t giving you the increased exposure you thought you would get, consider these common pointers that Web experts often recommend.
• Emphasize a professional appearance. Make it visually interesting, but don’t go overboard. Avoid having too many images as they may delay the uploading of the Web page, which quickly leads to potential patients jumping to a more accessible site. Keep it relatively simple and straightforward. Enable visitors to access information within two to three clicks of the mouse.
Those in the know also recommend shying away from pitching any products as it may create the perception that you’re more of a salesperson than a doctor.
• Tell them why they should come see you. Note your training, career accomplishments and/or expertise in certain areas, whether you use any particular new treatment technology in your practice, etc.
•Emphasize patient convenience. Give patients the ability to schedule appointments online. Just make sure you address security and privacy issues with whomever you use to design your Web site.
Include a Frequently Asked Question page that may include directions, office hours, which insurance carriers are accepted, what kind of conditions you treat, etc. This provides value to patients and also can enable your office staff to be more efficient as it will likely reduce the number of phone calls to your practice on basic questions.
• Get the word out about your Web site. Include your Web address on all business cards and in any advertisements. Register the site with common search engines. Swap Web links with your circle of referring docs. It’s an inexpensive way to build the profile of your Web site and your practice.
• Update the site on a regular basis. Obviously, time constraints come into play here, but one of the biggest killers of Web traffic is a site that goes months on end with no discernible update. The update doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It could be a reminder about the importance of screening of feet for patients who are diabetic or it could be an online discount on an office visit for a certain month. It’s something you should discuss ahead of time with your Web person and come to an agreement on updating that is relatively easy to do within time and cost constraints.
• Track the progress of the site. You can do this simply via a basic office form that asks how a new patient heard about you or through the use of the aforementioned online discount. Monitoring the traffic of your site will enable you to assess bottom-line benefits, whether any improvements are needed and whether it should be more of a priority for the growth of your practice.

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