If I asked you how your website is performing, you might be tempted to tell me about your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, how many ‘hits’ you receive weekly, or perhaps you may just shrug and say you don’t really know. You may have invested plenty in SEO and can be easily found online as a result, but what do viewers find when they get to your site? I want to know whether your site truly represents you, your practice, and its culture. Does it convey the personality, clinical philosophies, and quality of care that your practice provides to patients?
Ideally, your website should be a virtual extension of your physical practice. At the very least, it should convey general contact information—phone, fax, hours, location—as well as some specific information about your physician(s), care team, and services. Can visitors easily pick out the most relevant information, such as a phone number prominently displayed at the top of the screen? Do they have to scroll to the bottom of the site, or worse, click into a separate page to find your address?
How well or poorly your site performs even these basic tasks can make a considerable difference between prospective patients deciding to book an appointment with your practice or moving on to a competitor. There is no greater waste of SEO dollars than to drive visitors to a poorly performing website.
Once you have the basics down, you’ll want to go a few steps further and ensure the site is a virtual representation of your physical space. Use your website to showcase your staff, services, and patient satisfaction. As an added bonus, the more useful you make your site, the less time staff will have to spend on the phone answering questions about medication dosage, where to find medical record transfer forms, what certain procedures entail, and so on.
Begin by branding your practice consistently across your physical and virtual assets. Ensure that your logo is highly visible on your site. Use the same colors and fonts on your site as on physical signage, marketing materials, and business cards.
Allow your virtual representation to mirror the care with which you have designed the physical space patients experience when they arrive at your office. If it has been beautifully designed, make sure that your website has been, too. For example, if you have a modern layout and furniture, make sure your website has the same modern aesthetic and utilizes the same colors and tones as the physical space. Conversely, if your office could use an update, don’t represent it as a state-of-the-art facility online.
Make your site as useful as possible. If you can allow patients to book appointments online, not only are you freeing up staff time from booking those manually, you are offering patients much greater convenience.
If your electronic health record system vendor offers a patient portal, take advantage of that. The patient portal may allow you to communicate securely with patients, push out care plans, send updates to them, allow patients to access pertinent parts of their health records, and request medication refills.
If you are building a new site, make sure to utilize a website platform that allows for easy mobilization, also known as responsive design. By way of example, WordPress, Squarespace, and other platforms offer responsive templates that convert well to mobile device screen sizes as well as allow for easy viewing and interaction from any device. If you already have a website, when was the last time you viewed it on a mobile device? Ongoing changes to mobile platforms may result in less than perfect scaling, so check frequently to ensure your site looks great across all device sizes.
Tell Your Story
How are your physicians, care team, and staff presented online? Go beyond the standard curriculum vitae. Describe your clinicians’ interests and a sense of the type of care that each provides. For example, if you have a physician with a special focus in a particular area, state that. When applicable, link to or include patient testimonials to clinicians.
Short video vignettes by physicians literally speak louder than words and give a sense of the personalities behind the written profiles. Not only will you provide a more content rich experience for potential patients to make choices about whom to see, you will ensure a better fit between patient and physician personalities, too.
Don’t hesitate to share the history of the practice. Patients will appreciate knowing about your practice. List key staff members to give prospective patients a sense of familiarity before they even walk through the door.
Visitors to your site are the same folks who are interested in reading product reviews before they buy on Amazon. Give them a similar experience online and have your existing patients “sell” your services for you. You can solicit testimonials directly. You can also pull these reviews through from your social media sites, Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, Leapfrog, and more.
Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. If you routinely ask patients upon checkout if they had a good experience, you’ll accomplish two things. First, you will be able to address any discord at the time it occurs and are therefore more likely to prevent a patient taking to the Internet to vent publicly about it. Second, it provides you the opportunity to ask a satisfied patient to post a positive review. When you have hundreds of reviews, a couple of negative ones here and there—and there will always be negative reviews—won’t affect your overall score.
Be aware that these reviews also help, or hurt, your profile with Payers. For example, United Healthcare displays Healthgrades’ reviews in its physician directories as part of a participating physician’s profile. The more positive reviews you accumulate, the better your Payer profiles will be, too.