When patients receive a referral, one of the first steps they often take is to use the Internet to learn more about the provider.
Unfortunately, many healthcare providers in smaller practices must maintain a web presence with very limited resources. As a result, patients cannot learn about providers’ practices without making a phone call – or worse yet, may choose to skip over the providers completely. After surveying numerous practice websites, I would like to offer five tips for practices to consider:
1. Make sure your site clearly states who you are, where you are and what you do. If a provider's name does not appear on the site, that site will not appear in search results when patients search for that provider. Adding relevant keywords, such as the street address of the practice and the specialties of the providers increase the likelihood that the practice will show up in search results. Furthermore, putting this basic information on the web saves patients from having to call the practice to obtain it.
2. Maintain your old website’s domain indefinitely. We live in an era of practice consolidation, acquisition and expansion. While these changes frequently bring rebranding, many providers have made the mistake of discontinuing their prior websites. As a result, patients sometimes get confused when they see non-functional links to the prior sites. Given that the cost of maintaining a domain name (the main address of a website) is less than $10 per year, practices should simply redirect their old domain names to their new website. Old domains should be maintained indefinitely.
3. Make sure your website has a professional, contemporary appearance. While the exact age of the Web is unclear, the consensus is that the Web has already celebrated its 20th birthday. If your website is a product of the Clinton or Bush era, you might want to revisit whether or not it could use a redesign. In the past several years, technologies, such as content management systems, have made it easier for small businesses to update their websites and to purchase complex, ready-made designs produced by professionals. As a result, practices no longer have to make the choice between hiring an expensive designer and entrusting their design to someone without formal training.
4. Encourage meaningful linking. Practices should encourage affiliated physicians to link to the practice website from their LinkedIn pages and independent websites. Links from relevant pages help patients and colleagues find the website, while boosting its credibility in the eyes of search engines. As links from academic institutions are often treated prestigiously by search engines, academically-affiliated physicians should be encouraged to link to the practice’s website from their academic web page.
5. Examine the keywords contained in your pages. Physicians, group practices, ambulatory care centers, surgical centers and hospitals should carefully comb through their pages to ensure that they contain words that are likely to be used to describe their practice. Want to see an example of how this can be done? Note that in the prior sentence, I listed out several different types of providers, rather than just saying "providers." By explicitly mentioning "ambulatory care centers" and "building a website" on this page, it is possible for this page to be found by someone searching for tips on how to build a website for an ambulatory care center. Had those words not explicitly been mentioned, it is unlikely that such a person would find this article.
This article was written by Adam C. Powell, Ph.D., President, Payer+Provider Syndicate.
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