Thursday, November 19, 2009

Does your practice have a Web site? Why not?

If I can book a dinner reservation online, why not a doctor’s appointment? I am of the generation that thinks – in general - if it’s not online, it doesn’t really exist, or at least it’s not worth looking into. If I’m looking for a store or restaurant, an article or stat, really anything and everything, I first start with Google.

So why should my doctors be any different?
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Physicians’ offices seem decades behind the times when it comes to an online presence. Topping the results list when I Google my doctor are sites like healthgrades, ucomparehealthcare, and vitals, which rank doctors. No Web site with health information, and of course, no blog or Twitter feed.

Does your practice have a Web site? Now, is it more than just a splash page with your address and phone number, and maybe a picture of the building or Google map? In November’s journal, we have a story about how to trick out your Web site, and it offers some really helpful – and easy – ways to make your practice’s site more engaging. I guess the first step would be to build a site, which these days, is easier than you might imagine.

In our latest annual Technology Survey, we found that 66 percent of you have Web sites, but only 23 percent were interactive, meaning patients could request appointments online.

Even that many practices claiming Web sites surprises me, because anecdotally, I rarely hear of a practice with a sophisticated Web site. But I can’t understand why. Yes, physicians are busy seeing patients and wading through paperwork, but I think an Internet presence is crucial. It’s a worthy way to connect with patients, market your practice, and offer accurate health information.

Just think of the possibilities. Your patient Googles you (or even a phrase such as “primary care doctor, St. Louis”) and up pops your site at the top of the list. There you have information on the seasonal flu and healthy living, and even a way to correspond or request an appointment. What’s the hesitation? Why are medical practices shying away from the Internet?


  1. This is bordering on silliness. A doctor visit is not a dinner reservation. So you are having chest discomfort (not pain-it's never pain) and you go online and see an appointment in 2 days. You take it since your doctor is busy and the pain is not bad. A day later you are found dead from a totally occluded artery in your heart. If you had called, the receptionist would have squeezed you right in or sent you to the ER.
    I'm not willing to risk my patient's lives on an online scheduling program.

  2. Fair enough, Signaturedoc. But what about for a route appointment? An annual exam or dental cleaning, for example? While not seriously equating a doctor's appointment with a dinner reservation, I was trying to make the point that so many areas of our lives are online and at least some part of physicians practices should be.

  3. That is, a routine exam. Please forgive the typo.

  4. Dear Signaturedoc,

    I have to agree with Sara. While I find it hard to believe that every patient visit is either emergent or urgent in nature, there must be a small subset of your patients that could benefit from scheduling, or rescheduling, follow ups a few weeks or months down the road?

    I do believe;however,that having an on-line way of communicating with your office, especially if it is a potential emergency might be easy alternative than calling your office over a landline.

    I am not suggesting that a scheduling system is the only way your office needs to have a web page. There are lots of smaller and less "liable" ways the web can help. E.g. health tips, latest news about the practice..........refilling prescriptions, etc.

    Randall V. Wong, M.D.
    Fairfax, Virginia

  5. Did you ever think that:
    a) some practices are about skewed so heavily toward 70+ yr old pts that a website would infuriate them?
    b) we already have more patients than we could possibly begin to serve, so pleasing some "me generation" "right now" just isn't going to happen soon