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Five Elements of Effective Medical Website Design

By: Amanda Kanaan – WhiteCoat
Article originally featured in Med Monthly Magazine

Seven Seconds. That’s all the time your website has to make a good impression on a potential patient. And if it doesn’€™t, “€œclick”€ and the patient is on to your competitor’€™s website. Regardless of the number of visitors coming to your website, your efforts are futile without effective medical website design that ultimately converts those visitors in to actual patients.

Five Elements of Highly Effective Medical Website Design

1. Polish Your Image
Patients will make assumptions about your practice, and even the decision to seek your care, based on the quality of your website. If your website is outdated, patients will assume your care is as well. Regardless of how accurate their sentiments are, perception is reality in this case.

While it€’s important to present patients with a professional image, be careful not to go overboard with the use of unnecessary flash, graphics and music. Causing sensory overload is just as harmful as a poorly designed website to your practice’€™s image. In fact, most mobile devices such as iphones and ipads cannot even register flash on a website and instead displays a blank box on the screen. According to a 2011 study by comScore, almost 17 million Americans a month access health information on their mobile devices. Therefore, it is best to keep the design clean, simple and mobile friendly.

Online videos and virtual tours are a great way to make patients feel welcome at your practice before they ever step foot in your office. Thirty second videos of your providers delivering a welcome message or talking about education related topics will help patients make an instant connection with your practice. Virtual tours are also helpful in relieving the anxiety of what to expect when patients visit your office.

Another small piece of advice that will make a big difference is to use professional photography for the providers’€™ headshots. One of the main reasons patients visit your website is to get an impression of your doctors. An unflattering headshot taken with a staff member’s digital camera in the office may not put your doctors in the best light. A professional headshot with proper lighting can make all the difference in properly branding your provider’s image.

2. Send the Right Message
The message you send is just as important as the image you portray. Whether you want to be known as the solo doc with friendly, personal care or a large practice that offers the convenience of multiple specialties under one roof, you can send strategic messaging through the writing style of the website’s content. Consider hiring a medical marketing professional to help you craft a message that differentiates your practice in the community. Your messaging should ultimately answer the question, “Why should I choose you?”

Evaluate what truly makes your practice unique before answering this question. Touting that you offer experienced care is not a differentiator. That is a generic statement that I bet most of your competitors boast. Examples of true differentiators would be “delivered the most babies in Atlanta” or “€œfirst robotic surgery performed in the state”€ or “€œSeattle’€™s only €˜green dental practice”€. These are tangible statements that will set your practice a part and establish a brand that is unique to you.

3. Focus on Functionality
Sometimes practices build beautiful websites with flashing images and elaborate intros that are pretty to look at but aren’€™t very functional for the user. Patients often visit your website for a very specific reason€“ to get directions or read about your doctors for instance. If you don’t make it easy for patients to instantly locate what they need, then it’s either one more phone call your staff has to answer or one more potential patient you just lost.

Ask your staff about reoccurring questions they receive from patients to better understand how to organize your website’€™s layout. One of the most popular pages on any medical website is the “meet the doctors’€ page. More than ever patients are researching and comparing their providers to determine who is the best fit to manage their treatment. Instead of burying this page in the submenu of the “about us”€ section, feature a button right on the homepage so patients are just one click away from reading about your providers.

When it comes to the navigation menu itself, website visitors are now used to a particular format with the menu either on the left side of the page or across the top. Do not attempt to be “cutting edge” by featuring your menu on the right side of the page. This will only confuse visitors. Just like the design itself, keep the functionality simple and clean.

4. Provide Meaningful Content
According to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of all internet users, or 61 percent of all adults, search online for health information. When it comes to the source of this information, ideally patients should look to their health care provider, not websites like WebMD. By providing meaningful content on your website beyond a list of services and directions to your office, you’ll not only drive more traffic to your site but you will also fulfill a growing demand of patients seeking information online.

Blogs are the best way to provide ongoing medical education to your patients. Although physicians are sometimes overwhelmed by the idea of keeping up with a blog, a preset plan of blog topics will help relieve some of this anxiety. Plan your blogs 30 days, 60 days or even 90 days in advance with a schedule of topics to cover once a week. Blogs that are 350-400 words in length are ideal and take very little time to write.

These days you can hire marketing agencies to write your blogs for you or can use a Content Management System (CMS) to do it yourself. A CMS is a software program that allows you to easily manage the content on your website and blog without knowing html (computer language).

Using a free CMS, such as WordPress, can result in a savings of both time and costs for your practice. As easy as editing a word document, staff can make simple updates to the website without incurring additional costs from a web designer or waiting several days for the change to be completed. This includes adding a bio and picture for a new doctor to your website or writing a weekly blog. The CMS will also allow you to tag your blog entries with corresponding keywords so the article can be found by the search engines.

5. Call Patients to Action
Websites should be more than just an online brochure. Yes, they provide valuable information about your practice but their first priority should be to convert visitors into new patients. Just like making a sale in the business world, sometimes it’s as simple as asking the visitor to take action.

Whether you prompt the patient to request an appointment, fill out a contact form, sign up for your newsletter, or simply follow you on Facebook, asking them to take some form of action will yield a much higher new patient conversion rate. Your website should feature a call to action on every page. For instance, include your phone number at the top of the website header that says “call us to schedule an appointment” or a link at the bottom of each page that directs them to the “contact us”€ page.

For those practices that already have a website, using these tips to tweak your design will help take your website to the next level. For those practices in need of a brand new website, be cautious of do-it-yourself web design companies that claim to give you complete control of your website. Often these templated websites end up being poorly designed, may contrast with your practice’s current branding and don’t deliver the new patient volume you were hoping for. Shop around to find a professional medical website design agency that can provide a custom website that is both within your budget and delivers the results you seek.

Amanda Kanaan is the owner/founder of WhiteCoat – an online medical marketing agency committed to growing doctors’ practices and healthcare organizations through cost-effective and powerful online marketing solutions. Some of WhiteCoat’ services include medical website design, websites for doctorsmedical marketing, search engine optimization, social media management, and online reputation monitoring.

Headquarted in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kanaan and her team serve physician practices across the country. Amanda regularly speaks at medical association meetings and conventions and is a published expert in the field of medical marketing. To learn more or for a free website evaluation, contact her at [email protected] or www.whitecoatmedicalmarketing.com.

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