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Not Much Progress in the Development of Physician Practice Web Sites

Posted Feb 19 2013 12:00am

I have always thought that the development of practice web sites by physicians would be a wonderful way to reach out to patients and provide medical information as well as services such as the ability to book office appointments. In retrospect, such sites have not been evolved in the same way as other business segments (see: Physicians’ websites are more “electronic brochures” than online health resources ). Here is an excerpt from the article:

A new survey finds that doctors’ websites are woefully lacking when it comes to serving patients. No surprises there – after all, the most commonly used technology in a doctor’s office is still the fax machine. Here are the details of [a recent] survey [of] ...300 doctors with the highest patient satisfaction ratings in Boston, Denver and Portland. The specialists analyzed were OB/GYNs, urologists and orthopedic surgeons. 69 percent of these physicians have websites but only 33 percent of them have anything more than biographical and practice information on it. Only 99 in fact have information centered around patients such as medical conditions and treatment options. It gets worse with only 4 percent – 12 doctors – made at least one blog posting in the past 12 months on their websites to inform patients on trends and research.“Doctors in these cities are still using their websites primarily as electronic brochures about their practices rather than as online health resources,” said ,,,[a member of the survey group]. The results are all the more revealing given a recent Pew Internet survey that shows that patients continue to search for health information online. So doctors are missing a real opportunity to bridge the chasm they currently have with with patients by keeping website information limited to their bios.“In 14 years of helping doctors find new patients, our foremost conclusion is that patients look for health care information first and health care providers second,” [a spokesperson] said in the statement. “Any doctor offering online health education engenders public trust, attracts a better informed patient and grows his practice.” 

Unfortunately, this story confirms some of my perceptions about physician practices. Please note that my comments should not be construed to suggest that physicians in private practice are professionally inadequate. Rather, I think that they often lack an understanding and appreciation of information technology and marketing. Although they are running businesses for which a web site would be an important asset, physicians often do not perceive themselves in this way nor do they allocate resources for IT and marketing. I am sure that there must be local web designers to whom physicians could outsource the development and maintenance of web sites. However, if the physicians running such practices do not appreciate the value of this way to communicate with their patients, such resources would not develop. 

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