Spinning the Web
By Donald Bodwell, PT Consulting Partners
A colleague was interested in putting together a website for his private practice, so I asked him a simply question.
"What do you want your website to do?" I inquired.
"What should it do?" he responded.
I slowly leaned back in my chair, and realized that I had a lot of territory to cover.
Most businesses in today's marketplace recognize the importance of building an Internet presence. Physical therapists in private practice are no different. In the past, people searching for information used to turn to the Yellow Pages first. But now, the Internet has become the modern-day version of these listings because it's faster and can offer more information.
By simply tapping a few keys, people are turning to the Internet to learn about you and your competitors. Although most new patients are referred by doctors and clinics, some potential clients try to locate rehab providers on their own. And people who receive a referral may even want to obtain background information on a private practice before the first appointment.
But what information should you include on a website? When planning a website, people tend to throw in everything they can think of, such as staff-written articles and text from old brochures. And some clinicians just model a website after their competition. These approaches can do more harm than good because you risk creating a site that turns off prospective clients, instead of attracting them to the practice.
For starters, a website should focus on serving a single audience, so you don't confuse and lose visitors. For rehabilitation practices, the desired audience is new patients.
Consider what these people are looking for in a practice. People won't spend time trying to decipher a poorly organized website if they can't find information quickly.
A website should be organized, attractive and hit on the main areas of interest. Those areas comprise the components of your main, or home, page. Here's where to place your focus.
Programs and services. If your facility offers specialized programs and equipment, this is the place to talk about them. Describe each program or service, such as sports medicine or women's health, in terms patients can understand. For instance, provide treatment details and talk about specific exercises that can help various conditions. Emphasize features that set you apart from the competition.
Look at this section as an opportunity to educate potential patients. Make sure you explain obscure medical terminology. Remember, the best descriptions focus on how your services help patients recover from an injury or particular condition and regain function.
Consider including photos of the equipment at your facility. If you decide to show people working on the equipment, make sure they're smiling. This conveys a positive image of therapy sessions. And if a therapist is usually present during therapy, make sure to include him in the photo.
Professional credentials of the staff. In this section, you can provide more information about yourself and the staff. As the practice owner, you can discuss your philosophy of physical therapy and provide background about the practice.
Patients feel more confident about coming to therapy if they know that a clinical staff is competent. As such, list professional credentials of each clinician, along with a brief biography, degrees, specialized training and certifications. If you include a picture, the photo should show them wearing the same formal or informal clothing that they wear at the facility. This will avoid creating unexpected surprises when the patients first arrive.
List of insurance carriers. Consider listing your affiliations with insurance carriers. You should create enough space to include a complete list, even it's lengthy.
In this section, you can inform patients if you file insurance claims for them or not, or mention any stipulations. If you don't file insurance claims on behalf of patients, they should know about it before they get to your facility.
New patients also want to know what to expect on the first visit. Will they receive an assessment or therapy, or both services? What should a patient do if a primary care or specialist referral is required for insurance reimbursement? How long does a typical treatment last? These questions are important to prospective patients, so provide the answers and eliminate surprises.
Patient testimonials. Your practice has obviously helped many people regain function and improve their quality of life. Include a few positive comments from former patients, which can reassure prospective patients that they're going to have a positive experience if they select your practice. But before posting a testimonial, make sure you get written permission from the patient.
You can limit testimonials to a few sentences from several patients who extol the benefits of your services. Or you can use a single testimonial, structured like a small feature article, and provide more in-depth information about one patient's recovery.
Basic information about the facility. Oddly enough, many sites don't include basic information about the practice. Some practices only include an email contact, and others bury the information so deep in a site that visitors can't find it.
On the main page, be sure to include the practice's address, phone number, fax number and e-mail address. Some visitors may access your site just for this information. In addition, provide a "contact us" form underneath the practice's basic information. When users click on the "contact us" button, a form can pop up so they can enter a comment or question, and then hit "submit." This allows people to easily send you a quick message without leaving your site to use a personal email account.
Also, create a location for additional information, such as hours of operation and weekend availability. Make it easy for patients to find your office. Include directions or simple maps that show nearby intersections and landmarks. If parking lots aren't adjacent to the facility, make sure you illustrate them with maps, as well.
While the emphasis on streamlined and focused content is important, an effective website should have a professional look and design. It's easy to build websites using templates and models from Web hosting services. However, it's usually obvious that these sites, which use stock graphics, layouts and fonts, are homemade.
To create a reputable website, apply the same type of professionalism that you would with other marketing materials. You wouldn't construct other marketing information, such as stationary, calling cards, brochures and advertisements, on-the-cheap. A website should receive the same attention to detail.
Stay consistent during this process and make sure your practice's logo, fonts and colors match other marketing material. These tools should be coordinated and support each other, and project a single image and brand.
Website design rates come in a range of prices, from a high-end of $12,000 to $15,000, to the low-end of $1,000 to $2,000. Marketing and graphic shops tend to be the most expensive for design and construction; free-lance designers may be just as good and charge less. Find a couple of sites that you like and contact the web designers for a quote.
If you already have a website, then you may want to redesign, update the content and include new information.
When it comes to marketing a practice, times have changed. If you don't take advantage of new opportunities and build a Web presence, you may be left behind.
To learn more about how this technology can be applied in your company: Contact Us at PT Consulting Partners.