People are increasingly turning to the internet for medical information to cope with illness and changed life situations, whether they’re looking for themselves, or about someone else’s health or medical situation.
78% of Australians are searching for health information online.
People don’t seek healthcare services when they are feeling well. They do so when they’re trying to help themselves or someone close to them. Health issues can be stressful, as people worry about health conditions as well as financial issues.
Even if your primary source of referral is word of mouth through your peers or existing patients, there is growing expectations from consumers for health practitioners to be online.
If you want your website to attract new patients or clients, or reinforce who you are and what you offer with your existing clients, you need to make sure it offers a ‘customer’ experience and answers all the common questions.
Here are six tips for health practitioners on creating a professional website:
Service descriptions, features and benefits need to speak directly to the heart and mind of people looking for particular health information. People have varying degrees of health literacy and can be intimidated by medical or health jargon. Information needs to be easily understood. Go above what you need to deliver and meet their interest and information needs.
Reflect who you are
Show your ‘brand personality,' it's what makes you unique. Let your words and videos depict who you are. Use colour, logo, imagery, typography and graphics that fit your style. In your profile include a professional photo and details about your qualifications, credentials, registrations, research initiatives (participatory and independent), memberships & associations. Offer some personal insights or interests, it can help to build rapport.
Appointment booking, FAQs, live chat, or virtual messenger
Patients and clients expect more than treatment, they want care and customer service. Most practitioners don’t think of their work as customer service. Every click on your website is an opportunity to shape a person's perception about the quality of care they can expect to receive. Personalise the website experience using booking systems, virtual assistants and messengers; they can be automated to various degrees.
Privacy and Security
Just as you would ensure the security of a patient’s paper-documented medical history and personal information, the same applies to information people provide online through booking forms, subscriptions or by signing up to e-newsletters or databases. Use a secure web hosting service provider. Explain how you will ensure the security of the data you collect on your website.
Be clear about how you will manage personal information obtained online. The Privacy Act 1988 sets out 13 Australian Privacy Principles which apply to the collection, use, disclosure and other aspects of handing personal information. It applies to all healthcare providers in the private sector throughout Australia and there are various legislations in states and territories.
People are looking for credible and trustworthy information. Have a ‘resource hub’ consisting of not only your own resources, but access to other approved information. Offer tools and apps that can help people manage their own healthcare.
How to reach you
Your website needs to be easily found on Google. In other words, ‘search engine optimised’. If it’s designed so that it follows the patient journey, it will be quick and easy for people to find the information they are looking for. Then, it should be easy to use and lead to bookings or calls. As well as phone and email contact details, include a google map, transport and parking information, hours of operation and where people can access out of hours and emergency support. If you offer telehealth, telephone or video consultations or home visits, make sure that’s clear.
Be careful about using stories or testimonials that imply your service or treament will end in a health outcome of benefit. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency has clear ideas on this in their Guidelines for Advertising for registered health practitioners.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare has produced a range of useful guidelines and material, such as the Writing health information for consumers fact sheet. It might appear obvious, but the information is essential when you are talking about healthcare.
Here’s something to keep in mind.
Reliability, expertise and professionalism are important reputation traits. If you create an online presence with that in mind, you’re off to a good start.