The dream: Patients locate your web site
when they do an internet search for their condition. Physicians,
insurance adjusters, therapists, lawyers and other sources of referrals
do the same. They find your site, like what they see, and call your office
for an appointment rather than calling your competitor. The only cost to
you is the effort of putting up a web page.
Web pages are a very inefficient
way of advertising for a hand surgery practice unless coupled with conventional
media (print, television, radio) advertising. There are several reasons
Web sites can provide an advertising
function, but should be carefully planned, or they will cost more money
than they will ever generate. Before setting up a practice site, decide
what you want from your site ...beyond advertising.
The internet is huge and is overloaded with
lay terms which relate to the hand. The words hand, thumb, arm, finger,
palm and others are each used extensively not only in nonmedical context,
but are frequently used buzzwords in Internet and computer related publications.
Such search terms embedded in a hand surgery web site will be retrieved
by search engines, but buried beneath a mountain of results of other sites
with similar terms.
The current popularity of repetitive strain
diagnoses in lay literature and the unregulated nonmedical industry which
feeds into this has resulted in a large number of sites loaded with medical
catch phrases of "carpal tunnel syndrome", "hand injury", "hand surgery",
and so on. This further dilutes the search engine visibility of a single
hand surgery web site.
The patient base of most hand surgery practices
is the local regional community, but the Internet is decentralized. Unless
some other form of local advertising provides a link to the practice web
site, it may not catch the eye of potential patients within the catchment
area of the practice. Potential solutions include listing the Web site
address on business cards, print brochures, correspondence or conventional
media advertising. This still requires that the potential patient
take that extra step of looking up the web site specifically rather than
having it presented as a result of a search. Internet based physician directories
have unknown usefulness.
Even when an upper level search engine visibility
is achieved, patients do not always make the connection to the practice
unless it is aggressively advertised on the web site. For example, during
office visits, I have had a number of patients bring in printouts they
have made from my web site, not realizing that I was the
author of the information that they brought! This is because I have not
advertised my practice web sites (24,
11) in my community, and because my
patient information site (23) does
not showcase the details and location of my practice.