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Practice Website Design and Marketing

Integrating Internet Services

In an interview with Wired magazine, CBS president Leslie Moonvies discussed the network’s increasing emphasis on the Internet in terms of its content development and television advertising, and overall viewership. In this regard, CBS’ interests are similar to those of dental professionals, who also recognize the potential of the World Wide Web in reaching a broader audience of consumers. In 2010, with roughly 239 million Internet users in the US alone (according to a June 2010 report by the ITU)1, savvy business owners must be mindful of how to harness this resource more effectively.

With greater numbers of consumers turning to the Web for not only entertainment but information regarding their health and well-being, clinicians have recognized the importance of having or improving their Internet presence as a means of differentiating services provided, increasing treatment awareness and acceptance, and attracting new patients to the practice. Referrals are also dramatically increased by the use of a viable website that can be easily accessed, searched, and maneuvered.

Building a website for the dental practice is not a difficult task, but rather one that can be conducted as an extension of existing efforts to market the practice (Table). As such, it is beneficial to have a budget allocated for the practice website--which can require different expense thresholds depending on the desired level of functionality, pages of content desired, and compatibility with the Internet’s various search engines. Throughout the build, it is imperative for the clinician to collaborate with a professional organization that has documented experience and success with the Internet. With HIPAA compliance as an added requirement for dental practice websites, it is thus important that any service provider understand the safeguards necessary to prevent exposure to litigation and to ensure privacy.

Prior to selecting a website development service, the clinician should identify his or her needs in order to develop the site most effectively and to ensure maximum profitability and user satisfaction. Important items of consideration include the following:

  • Content development: To determine if the site will include descriptions of services provided, patient testimonials, clinical images, mission statements, introduce the staff, and provide hyperlinks to additional resources. The frequency and process by which updates are facilitated are also important considerations.
  • Security features: To ensure the website will have the necessary encryptions that will protect communications and ensure patient privacy.
  • Reporting and analysis: To enable monitoring of website traffic.
  • Hosting: It is important to understand if the website will be hosted by the web designer or subcontracted to a dedicated vendor who will “rent space” on its servers for the site. This can represent additional (albeit nominal) recurring fees beyond the expense of the website’s initial design.
  • Patient education: To provide additional resources (online modules, newsletters, etc) aimed at improving the patient’s understanding and awareness of aesthetic and restorative dental procedures.
  • Additional functionality: Decide if integration with practice management software, e-mail services, electronic referrals, and other enhancements are beneficial to the desired image of the practice.

 

Maximizing Website Traffic

When selecting the web designer or programmer, it is important to ensure that the service will provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to better streamline the site’s web presence. This much-discussed functionality improves the volume and quality of traffic to the website from Internet search engines via mathematical search results. Many consultants will incorporate SEO services into website development and design, making the site “search engine friendly” and, thus, more user-friendly as well.

 

Conclusion

The evolution of the e-practice has allowed clinicians greater reach and an improved ability to communicate directly with the patient. The use of an integrated website is the next step in solidifying the bridge between patient and practitioner, improving communication, case presentation, and treatment acceptance across the board. Today’s web designers are aware that a user-friendly approach is critical to the website’s success, and many of these host services do not require a large expenditure, which further increases the overall return on investment.

 

Reference:

1. http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm

Tables

Table 1: Web Development Considerations

  • Visit other clinicians' websites and assemble a list of likes/dislikes before undertaking your build;
  • Be sure to obtain written permission from any patients or staff members whose photographs are displayed on your website;
  • Provide contact information, hours of operation, and answers to related questions that have traditionally required a human response from office staff;
  • Select a designer that will guarantee Search Engine Optimization to increase the amount of relevant hits to your site;
  • Determine the practice’s needs prior to web design so that any online features such as email or patient registration options are included in the initial quote.
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