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Medical web presence & strategies

Anita Pava – Monday, December 08, 2014


As part of a recent presentation regarding "Web presence and strategies for health professionals" given in Costa Rica to a range of General Practitioners, Specialists and Pharmacists, below is a summary of the key points covered – an RACGP accredited presentation with Amaco Travel.

Anita Pava – International Speaker


Photo courtesy of 

The evolution of man, from the point of view of technology. Of course, this illustration is already out-of-date, or the final example would be using a smartphone or sporting 'wearables' such as a Fitbit band…or Google Glasses.

Has technology improved medical practices?

Technology has certainly improved modern medical practices, and enabled the improvement of health care to patients, with the use of medical software; email; online appointments; pathology results; websites and commerce; electronic scripts; and personal health care records.

For the purpose of this article, let's concentrate on websites. What is the purpose of a website for a medical practice or pharmacy? It could be to provide information to patients about your medical practice; perhaps a recruitment tool for new staff; or for commercial purposes, with your products for sale online.

Purpose of your website

Improve patient care

A website can help improve your patient care and experience with you, by optimising the consultation. You can refer a patient to a trust resource of medical information prior to their consultation with you, or refer them for re-enforcement after their consultation with you.

Provide information

Your medical website can provide information regarding your address, phone and other contact details, traditionally delivered via offline methods, such as a Yellow Pages advert or signage on the front door of your Practice.

Many of you would already be accustomed to checking websites such as TripAdvisor before staying in a hotel or booking a restaurant. Did you know that many patients Google their Doctor before a consult. In fact, with every referral from a GP, 62% of patients Google the Specialist they have been referred to.

Grow your Practice

Your website can be a useful tool to promote patient loyalty, advertise new clinics you're running (such as "flu shots"), give information about new Doctors at your Practice, and it's an acceptable way to advertise your services. Patients can also find you via a listing Google or Yelp directories.

Integrate modern technology in clinical care

Your website can be a portal to many useful modern technologies, to enhance the level of customer service offered to your patients. For example, offering online appointments and links to trusted medical information, also improving the efficiency of your Practice.

Many Practices begin with a 'static' website, but there are many ways to make your website more interactive for patients. Rather than being a 1-way discourse, presenting information, you can include an enquiries form, online appointments, newsletters, blog posts, and links to social media channels for a truly 2-way conversation with your patients online.

To evaluate the purpose and efficacy (i.e. conversion rates), here are a number of case studies. To examine and compare, let's look at three common elements that are depicted: 1) depicted imagery; 2) products/services offered; and 3) call-to-action.

Case studies

Case study 1: Devonport GP Superclinic, website evolution

Imagery: the imagery depicted is of Cradle Mountain (Tasmania) and many other tourism-like photos of the surrounding areas to the Practice in Devonport. The strategy here was recruitment, and so both the pictorial content (and text) provided potential staff (mainly Doctors and Nurses) with family-friendly information about the Practice.

Services: While patients could review medical services and information, the display of employment and recruitment services is shown in a column on the right of the page.

Call-to-action: the goal is for potential candidates to apply online with their resume of qualifications, to join the team. With a shortage of Doctors in Australia, the strategy of the Practice was to recruit from overseas to fill the demand and shortage of Doctors in Tasmania. And this particular Practice was able to build the team to 16 GPs with a very family-friendly and caring approach to patient care, with all recruited staff being able to integrate well into the multi-cultural and diverse population in Devonport.

Case study 2: Devonport GP Superclinic, website evolution

Achieving the previous website goal, of recruiting new staff to join the Practice in Tasmania, there was a need for a new website that turned its focus back to patient care.

Imagery: a shift to patient-centric images, showing a friendly Practice for all ages.

Services: content was expanded to showcase the many services offered, through both the resident GPs and also the many visiting Specialists.

Call-to-action: through the use of colourful buttons in prominent places, the desired call-to-action is for 80% patients to be able to make their appointments online, and the remainder to call the phone number and make their appointments with the receptionists.

To evolve a website design (and especially a success website, while implementing a new strategy), its important to retain the existing corporate identity (i.e. the 'look and feel'), which can be done by retaining the existing colour palette and placement of products and services information. If you're previous website was unsuccessful for you, then a 'revolutionary' design might be required.

Case study 3: Bendigo Medical

Bendigo Medical are a great example of a consistent corporate identity for a modern medical practice.

Imagery: clearly displaying a strategy for patient care, a friendly Practitioner is exampled with a patient.

Services: Two key services are displayed through prominent buttons for Travel Clinic and their after hours clinic service.

Call-to-action: with a network of three locations in Bendigo, embedded Google maps offer patients the ability to navigate to their nearest location. Patients can also download the App's to make appointments online at any of the three locations.

Case study 4: St Leonards Medical Centre

Ascertaining the strategy of this medical practice is more difficult, as there is not a lot of information available.

Imagery: the street side presence is showcased on the home page, however this type of photography might be better suited for the contact page.

Services: a button to read more about the services is offered, however it's important to remember that on average people make a decision about the relevance of a website in up to three seconds. If the products or services are not clear quickly, you might find you're left with a large 'bounce rate' and potential patients closing your website in their browser window and looking for another medical centre that appears to be more relevant to them.

Call-to-action: whilst there is a contact page, the contact details on the home page are shown…but at the very bottom of the page. Some non-essential text is displayed higher up on the website page in a prominent position. This Practice might have a better conversion rate to appointments, by re-designing the call-to-actons to be more clear for patients, enabling for a better user experience.

Content for your medical website

Who will be looking at your website?

What content is appropriate for a medical website? In asking this question, we need to firstly ascertain who the target audience is for your medical practice. Are you close to a University (and attract a lot of students), are you located in Sydney CBD (white collar workers), or perhaps your Practice is located in the suburbs and "Mum" is the appointment maker for the family. It's important to get to know your patients and offer them an easier way to connect with you.

What information will they require?

If your target is "Mum", she will want more information to ensure your Practice is friendly and caring. It's important to her that you really care about her family, and if you can offer her the ability to make appointments online, this is certainly going to take away a lot of stress when a member of her family is unwell. If she can make an appointment with a GP at your Practice in the middle of the night (rather than waiting for the 8:30am phone rush the following day), she is going to be reassured help is not far away.

If your target is a younger patient, then ensure your website is 'responsive' so it displays effectively on smartphones and tablets. University students will very likely be accessing information via their smartphones, while in transit to a lecture or tutorial.

If your patients are predominantly white collar workers, then keep your website as minimalist and lean as possible. They are more likely to require information in a clear and concise format.

Of course no matter your target audience, they will require basic information such as your location, contact details, what you do (products and services offered), opening hours and emergency details, how to make an appointment with you (online and offline methods). You might also like to include your fees and fee procedures for 'no shows' and cancellations.

Have you read the AHPRA guidelines? Not many have, but I highly recommend you do this. Since AHPRA are the government body (in Australia) who specify what you can and cannot say about your medical practice, detailing clearly your advertising and social media guidelines. For example, you cannot say you 'specialise' in any area if there is no registration category. For example "Specialising in travel medicine". However you can say that you have a "Special interest in Travel Medicine. Read more…

As well as detailing your parameters online, AHPRA also dictate what you can and cannot say for more traditional offline methods. They refer to absolutely everything that your Practice produces, including items such as your building signage, stationery, appointments cards, public and professional directory listings, etc.

Designing your website

In 2006, Jakob Nielsen's research team recorded the results of how Users looked at thousands of website pages. Pictured is the results of their eye mapping study, on a red/yellow/blue scale, where 'red' are the hot spots and more commonly viewed parts of the page. This result looks like a capital letter "F", and if you imagine this F-shape to be the "Toorak, Victoria" or "Double Bay, NSW" of your website page. In using this information, you can start to get a good idea of where to include the more important elements and information on your website. Generally speaking (for all English speaking/reading patients) who read from left-to-right, the top-left zone of your website pages will be their starting point. Lesser important zones will be the lower-right area.

Remembering back to our three previously examined elements – images, services and call-to-actions. Consider the appropriate content for your images, which products or services you wish to offer, and what the necessary call-to-actions will be required. And of course don't forget about your menu and navigation.

How to get your patients to click?

If your website is responsive, remember particularly the placement of your call-to-actions. The majority of our population is right handed, and if they are looking at your website on their smartphone, it's going to be helpful to them to 'click' on your call-to-action with their right thumb.

Your patients will require indicators designed into your website, to help them navigate through the options available. By the use of buttons and highlighted colours (that change), all giving indications to your patients that something happens if they click.

What patients don't want to see?

As proud as you will be of your history and heritage to build your medical practice…from the point of view of your patients, this is non essential information. Sorry about that! But it's statistically proven. Of course, it's okay to keep these pages as part of your website, but try not to feature them in the more prominent locations.

Your corporate identity

This is where the aesthetic part of your website's design comes into action. Your corporate identity is the 'look and feel' of your entire branding and visual presence in the community. Elements that will contribute to it, will be your logo, colour palette, graphics, type of photos, etc.

Do you know which is the most famous brand on the planet? Why it's Coca-Cola! And do you know that (after it's first 2-year period of introduction), which became the second most famous? Why its a little blue pill called Viagra. Picture the 'red' of Coca-Cola and all the brand values associated. Closer to home, the likes of ANZ Bank (blue) and Qantas (red), or BP Petrol (green…an environmentally friendly colour). You can start to get a feel for the theory behind the colour palette of choice for many brands. Blue is a commonly chosen colour for the business world, as it's deemed to be very friendly and professional. If your website strategy is patients, then the introduction of blue into your colour palette might make sense. If your Practice has an environmental and sustainable approach to the planet, then olive green would be an obvious choice.

Retain a consistent approach to your branding and corporate identity, to help attract and retain your patients. They will get to know the values of your Practice and this look and feel will become comfortable and recognisable to them.

Thank you

We hope this was helpful as an introduction to websites for medical practices. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us. We'd be only too happy to assist.

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