D.I.Y. vs. Professional Web Development

With the rise of user-friendly web development platforms, time-saving do-it-yourself websites have become an option for medical businesses newly online. All it takes is basic HTML knowledge, creativity, and a web host provider – or so it seems.

Getting Down to Business

Medical practices bank on the professional image they project – the physical institution, the equipment, the management, the doctors and medical staff. Not only must the medical practice website represent and enhance the institution, it should be search-engine friendly and easily navigable by site visitors. Certain sections should comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPAA), which protects the privacy of patients’ health records.

Websites nowadays no longer hold static information. They serve as a venue for visitors to inquire about the practice and its services, schedule appointments, and volunteer feedback and testimonials. Rookie web developers lack the expertise to create these applications, and run the risk of building websites riddled with bugs – something a medical practice cannot afford.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Building medical websites requires know-how in information architecture, design aesthetics, search engine optimization, developing web forms, and a host of technicalities. Given the hectic schedules of the medical staff, few will have the time or patience for even a crash course in web development.

The bottomline? D.I.Y. is all very good for as long as you have the time and patience to study and improve your web-building skills. For busy professionals whose schedules are already stretched, it may be wiser to have an experienced web developer handle the job.

Have you encountered problems with developing your own website? What’s your experience with hiring developers to do the work? Do share with us.

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10 Elements Patients Need to See on Your Medical Website

For a medical practice these days, being online is essential. While the telephone directory may have reigned supreme in finding information two decades ago, it’s more likely that a patient these days will go on Google rather than leaf through a heavy phonebook.

What should your website have in order to increase the odds of patients scheduling consultations? Let’s take a look.

  1. The right resolution. A lot of medical websites out there were designed when the old 800 x 600 resolution was standard. The result? With the new, larger resolutions, these websites look cramped and cluttered. It’s time to optimize for the 1024 x 768 screen. A table-less layout that transforms with the window size is also a good option.
  2. Comfortable reading fonts. There’s a big chance your website is being viewed by people who don’t have perfect vision – aged patients, for one. Stick to simple, dark-against light text. Don’t use tiny fonts in an effort to cram more information into a page. The text style and size on this page, for example, should be sufficient.
  3. Specific expertise. Your patients will want to know what you practice best. If you have awards and achievements in your medical field, this is the place to let them be known.
  4. Complete services. Highlight on your homepage your core services, and keep an updated and organized list of all your services, along with helpful information for patients. For example, if you’re a cosmetic surgeon, provide information about procedures and before and after images.
  5. Contact details. List your address, telephone, fax, and – most websites forget this – your consultation hours prominently on your website.
  6. Online appointments. The big promise of the internet is convenience, so people ought to be able reach you through your website. Have a form on this page where prospective clients can send you an inquiry. Aside from a link on your navigation area, an appointment request callout ought to be prominent on your homepage and the key pages of your website.
  7. Search function. Though your navigation menu might seem sufficient, patients who are visiting your site for the first time might not have the time to explore all the pages in your website. Provide a search bar so patients can easily find what they’re looking for.
  8. Testimonial area. Since the website may well be the first contact you will have with your patient, some reassurance by previous patients and referring physicians may be helpful.
  9. Mailing list or newsletter. Some people may want to keep updated with news about your practice, so have an option for viewers to submit their email addresses for subscription – whether to your blog, newsletter, or mailing list. On your end, it helps you keep in touch with patients and gather new leads for prospective patients.
  10. Social community links. If you have a blog, a LinkedIn profile, a knowledge center, or a profile on a medical association website, link to those. These will help establish your reputation based on your affiliations in your field.

These may all sound like common sense, but surprisingly, many practice websites lack two or more vital elements that might have sealed a solid patient appointment.

What other elements are needed for a successful medical website?

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The Contact Manager: The Doctor Is In

A contact manager is a useful tool to manage communication between a doctor and his patients. Find out what a contact manager can do to help with the administration of the practice.

One of the most important challenges of practice management is doctor-patient communication. Because good healthcare demands quick response, patients need to be reassured that a doctor will get back to them at the soonest possible time.

A web-based contact manager can handle this quite nicely. A virtual appointment logbook, this manager allows the doctor’s practice administrator and staff to answer all incoming messages in an orderly system.

Automated appointments

Here’s an ideal scenario: Upon clicking the “Contact Me” button on the doctor’s homepage, the potential patient is prompted to provide a message, a date and time of appointment, and a phone or email address where the client may be reached. Even if the doctor is out, all inquiries and requests are sent to the administrator and the doctor’s email addresses.

All appointments booked can be exported by the administrator into an MS Excel file and printed out. The doctor can decide at his leisure which appointments to keep and which to reschedule, and send a prepared template email to patients on his calendar.

The extra marketing mile

A contact manager doubles as a marketing tool, keeping a contact pool of potential clients and contacts at the medical staff’s fingertips. Past appointments can be reviewed in the contact manager history, making it easy for the administrator to determine when a patient is due for a follow-up.

What other online tools has helped you manage your communication with clients?

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Testimonials: The New Practice Marketing

Cosmetic surgery is one of the most popular and in-demand industries nowadays.  Print, audiovisual, and online media bombard consumers with a number of advertisements encouraging them to try different cosmetic products. With more and more voices screaming at top of their lungs to get noticed, it is indeed difficult to stand out and be remembered. So how can a cosmetic surgery business leave a mark with consumers and stay at the top of its field?

While delivering top-quality services and products are a given, (your competitors will definitely do the same), taking advantage of the testimonial strategy promises to keep you on top. Testimonials have been used for decades in the advertising and marketing world, yet it is still one of the underused techniques in the industry. Mastering the art of testimonials could put your company’s name on the cosmetic surgery A-list and boost your sales.

Though hired celebrity endorsers are the status quo for cosmetic testimonials, recent studies by AC Nielsen have shown that consumers nowadays rely more on recommendations by people they trust than traditional media ads. Word of mouth among closely-related individuals is valued more than plugs by famous personalities. All you really need is to have powerful testimonials by satisfied customers, and harness the power of social media to multiply the word of mouth effect.

This said, what makes a testimonial powerful?  A good testimonial has the following characteristics:

1. Specific

- It is crucial to provide vivid, personal descriptions — when and how did a person discover the particular cosmetic product or service; how it helped the person; why it stands out from the rest.

2. Verifiable

- To establish that testimonials are coming from real persons, strive to include the name, age and (if possible) a brief description of the person.

3. Impressive

- Testimonials are most powerful when it comes from a member of your target audience. An anti-stretch mark treatment is best endorsed by a mother who has just given birth few months ago. The statement becomes more appealing to your target audience when they can identify with the endorser.

4. Photos

- Using pictures adds credibility to the testimonials.  Placing photos of satisfied clients next to their testimonials lends a tangible personality to the opinions expressed.

5. Before and After Images

- One of the key aces of powerful testimonials is the “before and after images” – just as the saying goes, “A picture speaks a thousand words”. Testimonials with photos comparing the skin’s appearance before and after the use of a whitening product have a more dramatic impact than those with just plain words.

The key approach is to build relationships with clients so that their personal story becomes a marketing tool in itself. “Connection” is the keyword here.

What techniques have you used to enhance the effect of testimonials in your website?

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The Page Manager: Dynamic Content on the Fly

Have you ever experienced the nuisance of wanting to change something in your website but not being able to deal with the confusion of coding? Worry no more, the page manager is here.

Static websites are history. Practice administrators are now looking for ways to easily update and add content to their web pages. Hand-coded updating is tedious, so if the administrator has a limited grasp of programming and markup languages, it can only be handled by the developer.

If you’ve ever experienced hunting down your designer just because you want to change a single link, sentence or word on your website, you know the frustration of waiting yet another day for changes to reflect on your site.

Fortunately, content management systems – or CMS – are available for practitioners who want to have more control over the content of their websites. A browser-based page manager simplifies the process of editing web pages through rich-text and WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors.

Choosing fonts, formatting paragraphs, and adding tables and columns become simpler. Most CMS platforms include tools for easy uploading and cropping of photos and hassle-free video embedding. Pages and links can be added and deleted with a click of a button.

Some CMS frameworks can even let non-techies manage search engine optimization easily by updating search keywords and publishing articles and pages seeded with these keywords. The production workflow can be managed by the system, which accepts remote edits from several contributors under a copy editor.

What are your experiences with page managers? Do you have specific CMS platforms to recommend?

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Moving up the Medical Marketing Ladder

How do you position yourself as the leading expert in your field? Here are a few tips to help you move up your industry ladder and gain more patients.

In this knowledge-driven society, patients are more critical in following the advice and opinions of medical practitioners. With the tight competition between you and your fellow medical practitioners, how can you position yourself as a medical expert and stand out among the rest?

One effective step to move forward as an authority in your field is through maximizing your medical marketing strategies. So how do you fully utilize the marketing solutions around you? What are the strategies best recommended to gain the top seat among the medical elites of your field?

Follow the list below and get ready to see yourself moving up the ladder of experts.

Launch a Website

People surf the net not just for entertainment but for acquiring information on different topics, as well. Having a creatively-designed and well-written website is an advantage for you as a doctor. It is an effective venue for you to introduce yourself to your potential patients: your expertise; services offered; researches and publications written; trainings attended; feedback of current or previous patients; and of course, your contact details.

Focus on Your Medical Specialty

Draw attention to your advantages.  Highlight your newest equipment, advanced technology, quality of service and procedures that give you an edge over your competitors.

Outline your Website Goals

The first step towards the success of any website is through goal-setting. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) goals maximize the benefits of owning a website.  Your set-goals serve as the framework in choosing the design, and preparing the copy of your website.  Thus, goals should reflect the brand and image you want to portray to your patients and to the general public.

Focus on the Patient, not on the Practice

On your website, give more attention to your patients’ concerns: What do they want to see on your site? What medical services do you specialize in? Where can they reach you? What makes you different from your competitors? You may also insert number of testimonials from your previous and current patients.

If you can, hire someone to write the website copy for you, someone experienced in online writing, who knows which words to stress, and what approach to use to attract more potential patients.

Promote your website

Well-thought design and carefully written content is useless unless it reaches its target audience. You must know how to attract traffic.  More leads mean more possible patients which means advances in your positioning in your field. In this area, you may seek the help of web marketing companies engaged in search engine optimization, social media optimization, and pay per click advertising to draw more guests on your website.

Start a Blog

Aside from gaining a venue to express yourself, tell your story, and share your ideas, it gives you a chance to interact with your patients regularly.  People who search for information about your field might also come across your blog and even share your ideas.  This will definitely increase your visibility and positioning on your field.  Also, regular blog updates are good for your search engine ranking.

Medical marketing strategies are designed to help you improve your ranking on your field, acquire more patients and keep on top of the industry. Be bold in maximizing their potential, and see how far you’ll go.

What marketing strategies have worked for you as a medical practitioner? Which ones bring the most results?

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