Medical Practice Website – Online Business Card

At the very simplest level any website needs three things:
  • A domain name, fully registered with authorities so others can locate your server.
  • A web server – special software running unattended on a computer somewhere
  • Content – the stuff your readers actually see.
There are many guides for starting your own website available online, and the exact mechanics will depend on your choices between different vendors offering a diverse range of options at different prices. Entry level service should be very very cheap. If not, shop around. (Blogger, this site, is free. Only cost is the domain name which I got from Hover for less than $20! See the appendix at the bottom of this article for some further reading.This article will discuss issues more specific to a medical practitioner and his practice and hopefully give you some broad direction. As a medical practice your online business card is there to allow people in the real world to find you by searching in cyberspace. You need to ask yourself the question “once they have found my online business card, what do I want them to do next:

I want them to be able to call the practice!

The most obvious function. So make the practice phone number OBVIOUS.Yes I know this seems like a stupid point, but evidently not everyone realises this. Recently I was messing around on Amazon Turk (long story) and discovered people who run phone directories were PAYING people around the world to read the phone number off business cards and enter it into a text field. They were paying 5c per card. For amusement value I had a go – IT WAS HARD. Some cards have beautiful designs obviously created professionally, and totally obfuscating the phone number.
So if the main aim of your practice web site is to get your patients to ring you – make the phone number BIG AND BOLD.

I want people to be able to send me an email!

Do NOT just put your email address in the text of your website unless you want to receive endles spam spam spam spam spam spam spam …….you get the drift! Why? Web crawlers will have your email in advertising mailing lists within minutes and you will have an endless supply of emails advertising brides from exotic locations, drugs to boost your ….. well you know, scams, the whole works.
If you have had a look around this site you will discover I have put my email in plain text. For me its a risk/benefit issue. I have been active online since 1994 and most of the world knows my email by now. So I just deal with the spam. My mail goes through the Google servers and they filter several hundred spam messages a day. Yes, thats right, several HUNDRED spam messages per DAY. Your mileage may vary.
So how to avoid the spam trap.
One way is to make your email address less machine friendly. Webcrawlers understand but have a much harder time dealing with allan at palmer dot net dot au. Unfortunately your human associates struggle to read this too.
Depending on where you host your web site, many offer a built in ‘contact form’ where users can leave you a message, without your email being revealed to the world. Thats great for people leaving you a message, useless if you actually want them to know your email address. Also watch the security and reliability of these contact forms just in case a patient decides to leave something important and you never receive it. There are other ways to obfuscate email with differing levels of success. This article from 2008 still has some useful points.
Its a compromise. If you are at the beginner stage, and people visiting your web site dont actually need to know your email address then dont put it on the site! Interestingly as the defences against spam are getting better I am receiving more and more spam or advertising Faxes. I’m up to two or three a day. Perhaps I need to leave the fax number off as well! Will it never end.

I want them to be able to find the practice!

Then just like the phone number, make the street address easy to find on your site. And if you are being really helpful, copy your address the way you intend to display it on your web site and paste it into Google Maps. See if it can be found and make adjustments accordingly. Even better include on your site a ‘widget’, a small piece of code you can get that embeds a portion of Google Maps onto your own site and SHOWS your patients where you are.
Note: Sometimes Google Maps isnt that accurate. This illustration is a few hundred yards off for my clinic but it can be adjusted, saved and once reviewed it will be corrected.
Once they have found the address, if you are in an office block, why not add in a splash of colour in the form of a photo of the door so your patients know they are in the correct place.

I want the world to know about me!

Yes there are some medical practice websites that have the practitioners full CV included on an endless scrolling page as the main feature. Really?
Lets take a pause here as this is actually quite a complex topic for us medics.

Most legal jurisdictions around the world have a prohibition on medical practitioners advertising. Australian readers might start reading from AHPRA – FAQ – Advertising FAQs We are however usually able to state name and qualifications, often with very specific legally defined words. For example in Australia I’m not an Anaesthetist, I am a ‘Specialist Anaesthetist’. You dont want trouble with your local licensing body so invest a little time investigating what you can and cant publish. Compare that with your objectives created during the first of these articles and see where the common ground is.

That common ground is the content for your ‘about‘ page on your practice web site.

If you really want to put your full CV online then consider entering it with one of the online organisations that do some validation. My CV is on Medpedia.

Closing Comments

So there you have a few things to think about before you embark on creating your masterpiece. If you wish to add your own thoughts please do so in the comments section below or even better over on Google plus.
Till next week when I want to consider the pros and cons of carrying internet advertising on your website to make it pay for itself.

Appendix: How to make a web site

General guide to creating a web site from the people at Lifehacker: