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Topics : Primary Practice Web Sites

Give Your Practice Web Site a Check Up:
16 "Best Practices" for Primary Practice Web Sites

By Rhondda Francis, TransforMED Webmistress

Joseph E. Scherger, MD, MPH - portrait

The end of the year is a great time to give your practice Web site an "annual check up" to make sure it's up-to-date and accurate. When doing your overview, use these 16 best practices for practice Web sites as a checklist.

1. Help Patients Find Your Practice Web Site
Search engines read text, but search engines can't read the words in a picture, so make sure your practice Web site has the complete name of your practice as HTML text and not just as a logo or a graphic. This is also important for people who are using text-to-speech conversion software (used by persons who are blind or who have low vision). Ideally, the name of your practice should appear as text in several key spots:

  • Near the top of the homepage, so it can be seen without scrolling
  • Repeated in the HTML page title of every page of your site, for example, "Services and Procedures -- Springfield Family Medicine" and "Contact Us -- Springfield Family Medicine"
  • Repeated on every page in a footer
  • As the "alt" text code for a graphic or logo of your practice name

This will not only accommodate search engines and persons with disabilities, but will also improve your search engine rankings, which means your web site listing will show up higher on the list of searches.

2. Help Patients Find and Contact Your Practice
Your practice's location(s), address, phone number and email addresses are incredibly important. It's great to have a Contact Us page that aggregates that information, but it should be in addition to that same information being prominently placed on your homepage and reiterated on every page as a footer. Again, as HTML text, not a picture. Also consider a link or connection to MapQuest, YahooMaps or another similar free service. Also, if you offer same day appointments (if not, you should!) be sure and say so prominently on your homepage.

3. After-hours and Urgent Care Coverage
Be sure that your practice's hours are highlighted right on the homepage, and preferably again in the footer. Also be sure to clearly state what patients requiring care should do in an emergency or after hours.

4. Hospital Affiliations
Is your practice affiliated with specific hospitals in the area? Be sure and note that on your Web site and provide links where appropriate.

5. Insurance Plans and Information About Fees and Billing Policies
Make sure to list on your Web site which insurance plans your practice accepts. Consider verbiage such as "if you don't see your plan listed here, please call us at 222-555-1212". Also clearly state your policies regarding fees and billing, including which if any credit cards you accept and whether you offer any sort of payment plans.

6. Online Patient History and/or Web Portal Login
Be sure you have prominent links, right on the homepage, to your online patient history and your web portal login area. You may also want to call attention to these in-demand services with an attractive graphic.

7. New Patients "Fact Sheet"
Your practices Web site probably offers downloadable forms for new patients, but you should also consider creating a downloadable, printable practice fact sheet for new patients that addresses all the informational needs of new patients in one document. Adobe PDF is the preferred format. At minimum, include your practice name, address, phone number, hours, directions or a map and insurance plans.

8. Patient Education Content
Consider adding links to high-quality online content that can help your patients find out more about a disease, condition, lab test, etc. It's a time-consuming activity vetting all the health information that the Internet has to offer, so take advantage of TransforMED's useful list of quality health information Web sites that you can add to your Web site. Click here for TransforMED's "core list" of online patient education resources. These links will not only help your patients, they'll improve your search engine rankings.

9. Patient Satisfaction Survey
An anonymous online patient satisfaction survey is a great way to get feedback. It can be as simple as a PDF form that patients can download, fill out and mail in or an inexpensive (under some circumstances they are even free) Web survey service such as SurveyMonkey where the patient can submit an anonymous survey that will be automatically provided to your practice. Alternatively, your Web host, developer or newsletter service may also offer inexpensive Web-based software.

10.  Prescription Refills
Your Web site should offer information on your practice's refill policies as well as instructions for the preferred method(s) of requesting prescription refills. If you offer online refills, provide a link to your Web Portal or service.

11. Procedures for Referrals
Save your busy staff a phone call by outlining your policies for referrals on your Web site. This is especially important if you offer referrals through a Web Portal or service.

12. Online Services
Online services such as e-Visits, e-Lab results, e-Prescriptions, Ask-a-Doctor email, online appointment requests, online patient history, and the like are highly in demand by patients and they are a critical part of the TransforMED Medical Home. If you are not currently offering e-Services, resolve that you will make this leap.

13. Services and Procedures
Very often patients think that primary care doctors offer only limited services. If you offer expanded services and procedures in-office or through formalized relationships with other providers, be sure and promote this in detail on your Web site. Think search engines and users when writing your text-- which is to say use the terminology that your patients would use rather than just offering a list of service and procedures in "doctor speak". For example, describe “same day appointments” rather than open access scheduling, a term that is well-known by doctors and practices but foreign to patients.

14. Philosophy/Mission and Staff Bios
Your practice's philosophy and/or mission is important to patients and can be a primary differentiator for new patients considering whether to choose your practice as their medical home. Don't stint on describing your mission and its importance to the entire staff, but be clear and concise. It's also a great idea to offer short bios and photos of doctors, nurses and office staff. The focus should be on putting forward a friendly, accessible face for the practice.

15. Non-English Offerings
Consider offering content --especially basics such as location and contacts-- in Spanish and/or other languages that may be prominent in your community.

16. Project a Friendly and Professional Image
Your practice Web site is your on-line waiting room or reception for your practice so make sure your homepage projects a friendly, uncluttered look that's professional, pleasant and easy to understand. Graphics should not be seasonal unless you plan to change them often.



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