Web Design 101: Odds Are Your Practice Website Needs a Little Work (First in a Series)

web design, practice website

As noted in last week’s post, it only takes an instant for online searchers to decide whether a particular website is going to give them what they want or not.

Unfortunately, it appears that healthcare websites are among those that are failing the test. As reported in a “Patient Attitudes Toward Healthcare on the Web” survey by Kentico:

  • 84% of respondents say they have difficulty finding the information they want on healthcare providers’ websites
  • 71% say that providers’ websites could be more helpful
  • 65% decide on which healthcare providers to use based on their website at least part of the time

Translation: If your practice website doesn’t make it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for — i.e., it isn’t helpful — there’s a good chance they’re going to looking for another doctor whose website does.

Of course, everybody knows they need a good website to appeal to today’s digitally driven healthcare consumers, right? Or do they? As a longtime healthcare marketer, Stewart Gandolf, CEO and creative director of Healthcare Success, estimates that:

  • 30% of private practice physicians have a good website that they’re happy with
  • 30% know they need to update, want to, but never seem to get around to it
  • 30% have sites that are embarrassing even to the uneducated eye, and desperately NEED to update, and
  • 10% don’t even have a website

In other words, six out of 10 doctors recognize that their practice website isn’t cutting it.

That’s surprising enough but the real mystery is why the remaining 10% would forgo the marketing power of a well-designed practice website. Some doctors may believe they don’t need one because they have a healthy “all-referral” clientele, but this is a dangerous supposition for two reasons:

First, most aesthetic consumers don’t rely on personal recommendations. (When RealSelf asked aesthetic patients what criteria were most important when deciding which doctor to contact, 34% ranked referrals dead last.) And, second, even the most glowing recommendation is unlikely to prompt a potential patient to reach for the phone and call to book a consultation. Instead, they’ll pick up that phone (or other device) and use it to conduct additional online research.

The fact is that the majority of aesthetic consumers gain some of their first impressions of the doctors they’re considering via their online research, with 60% saying they use a practice website as a resource to learn more about a doctor, according to RealSelf analysis. Almost 40% say practices with limited information online are outdated or not current; even worse, 16% believe such practices are actually hiding something!

So what are these highly motivated, but highly concerned consumers looking for? According to the Kentico survey:

  • Ease of finding information and responses to questions
  • Ease of contact via various preferred methods
  • Healthcare professional biographies
  • Information about healthy living topics like dieting, smoking cessation, or how to avoid the flu
  • Pleasant looking and easy to navigate site
  • Photos of healthcare facilities and the professionals working there

Does your practice website help or hinder them in their efforts? Does it give them a good sense of who you are, what you do, and why they should consider you and not the doctor down the street? Does it give them a sense of what they can expect from both a medical and customer-service perspective, and does it prompt them to pick up the phone or fill out a consultation form — or send them back to their search results or favorite review site to research other providers?

These are not theoretical questions. A well-designed practice website does more than merely help visitors learn about their aesthetic options and how you can help them. It can also determine how and where you appear in search results, help differentiate you from the competition and, by extension, persuade those visitors to take the next step. As Kentico CEO and founder Petr Palas, puts it,

Healthcare providers seem to have made significant strides in recent years in the use of the web to connect with patients in meaningful ways. Patients are reacting positively to what they have seen so far, but clearly they want much more.

In subsequent posts, we’ll explore some of the steps you can take to ensure that your practice website is up to the task. Next up: Homepages that get attention.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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