How To Build An Effective Web Site

By Brian McCurdy, Associate Editor

Plug “podiatry” or “foot” into a Web search engine and thousands of entries can surface. In order not to get lost in the ocean of Web sites, there are numerous factors to consider. When potential patients have concerns about their feet or need treatment, the Internet may be the first environment to which they turn for information. Indeed, your site may be the first impression patients have of your practice. “A Web site should be a working part of your practice and not just a vanity site,” says Kirk Koepsel, DPM. “It’s like a welcome mat for your patients.” Evidence suggests more people are turning to the Web for medical information and to research ailments and the medical care and medical practitioners they require, according to Trey Hickman, founder and President of the Web design and technology development company Nextology. He says the Harris Poll calls such people cyberchondriacs. According to the Harris Poll, 110 million people look for health information online and 53 percent of those who look for health care information use a portal or search engine, allowing them to search for the health information they want. Gale Wilson-Steele, CEO of the Web design company Medseek, suggests one reason why people turn to the Net for podiatry queries. “It’s not the kind of care that you have to do in an emergency situation,” she says of podiatry. “People have time to research.” Perception Is Everything Web sites can be as varied as the podiatric practices themselves, but those in the know strongly emphasize a professional appearance. Dr. Koepsel, a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, founded his company in 1999 that develops professional Web sites for physicians, He also maintains his own sites, of Houston, Texas and Dr. Koepsel advises you not to build the site yourself since a professional designer will make the site look more professional. He notes the pros can add many more features than amateurs can and busy podiatrists may not have time to build sites themselves. “Patients really do use the Web site and they expect a professional look and appearance when they visit the doctor’s Web site,” says Dr. Koepsel, Past President of the Texas Podiatric Medical Association. “If you’ve got dancing feet and goofy little kids stuff, it’s not going to present a professional look.” For Hickman, a good site “reflects the image of the clinic or doctor’s office and offers a professional design, easy navigation, patient-friendly language, comprehensive content and updated content that keeps people coming back to rely on the site as a resource. The site should validate the patient’s office visit experience.” In short, let potential patients have an insight into what they can expect at your office and ensure what they see online is not different from what goes on at your office, suggests Dr. Koepsel. Don’t Forget About The Basics That said, some experts agree every Web site should include some fundamental basics. • Basics on the practice. Both doctors and Web designers say a successful site should include some basic information about your practice, like directions to your office, hours and phone numbers. • Put faces with names. The experts agree you should list some biographical information on yourself and any other doctors at your practice so patients or potential patients can match the faces with the names. Dr. Koepsel lists this info on, as does Ira Weiner, DPM. “We are a friendly organization so it’s a friendly site,” says Dr. Weiner of “We wanted it brief and not wordy. We wanted to get to the point.” Wilson-Steele also suggests setting the stage for your rapport with patients by listing a little personal info about yourself, like your hobbies. “If they know that Dr. Smith played soccer, it gives them a connecting point,” she says. “That exchange of information starts with a give and take.” Wilson-Steele says your site can build a relationship with potential patients and let them know about your practice before they have problems which need treatment.

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