Doctor.com: Why should a doctor have his own website?A Malpani
Keywords: Attitude of Health Personnel, Attitude to Computers, Communication, Human, Internet, utilization,Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Online Systems, utilization,Physician-Patient Relations, Physicians, psychology,
In the past, being able to do a medline search on the Net and having your own email address was considered to be a status symbol! However, today, this is no longer enough – you need to have your own website . This rapid pace of change is symbolic of how quickly things are changing in today’s world – and doctors who are not proactive are likely to get left behind! The real power of the Net lies in the fact that it is so democratic , that you can publish your own information online as easily as any hospital in the US can!
Why should busy doctors take the time and trouble of setting up their own website? For doctors in private practice, the website provides value-added services for the existing and new patients, by providing details as to the timings of the clinic and how to get to the clinic. It also allows you to answer routine patient’s queries by email. Patients are thirsty for information about their illness, and many will use the Net to find information. However, most patients would much rather get information from their own doctor, and if you provide this information on your website, your patients know they can trust it. Your website will also save you a lot of time! Most doctors have now started seeing patients coming with Net printouts of pages and pages of unreliable and irrelevant information. If you put up your own website, you can guide your patients to reliable sources of information – thus saving your patients the frustration of wading through pages of garbage and misinformation! Remember that Indian patients want information about diseases common in India – so they want information on malaria rather than cystic fibrosis. By providing this information, you establish yourself as a credible expert.
You can “refer” patients to your website at the end of the consultation, so they can educate themselves . Patients appreciate this – and word of mouth will help you get more patients.
Your website can help you to attract new patients. Indian medical care is very cost-effective, and a website is very valuable for informing NRIs of your medical expertise.
Soon, it will become as routine for patients in India to do “research“ about their doctors, as it is in USA, and your website can help patients to find you! At our website we answer over 10 queries a day, as a result of which we get direct patient referrals from all over the world!
I think academic physicians have a even greater responsibility to publish on the Web. Medical centers and hospitals have a wealth of clinical material, but publishing in prestigious western medical journals can be difficult for most doctors. Consequently, a lot of India-specific information gets lost. Publishing papers in online medical journals will allow doctors to share their wisdom and clinical experience with their colleagues – and this is a key goal of modern knowledge management.
Academic physicians from developing countries have to deal with an uneven playing field when competing with academic medical centers in the West, which is why so many of our doctors have an inferiority complex. Getting published in foreign journals (with a high impact factor) can be difficult for them, because they are not part of the “old boy peer review network” - and the illnesses they see are often not of interest to Western medical journal editors. Fortunately, initiatives like E-biomed, which will allow doctors to submit their medical papers online to a central archive which can be freely accessed by everyone, will allow them to share their expertise. Websites of Indian academic medical centers can serve as storehouses of Indian medical information.
Putting up a website has become very easy , and your first website can be hosted free at http://www.goodhealthnyou.com - you just need to fill up the form online at the website. If you get more ambitious, you can register your own website address and this costs only Rs 2000 for 2 years.
You need to have realistic expectations of what your website can do for you! In India, the number of Internet users is not yet as high as in the USA, so don’t expect patients to start pouring in the day your website goes live! Just having a website is not enough – remember that there are over a million websites out there! You need to promote your website actively. Online promotion usually means registering the site with all the relevant search engines, so people can “find” you. Offline promotion is even more important, and you need to tell everybody about it! Print the website address (URL) on your business cards and your stationery – and display it in your waiting room .
Some doctors are worried that having their own website may be misconstrued as a form of advertising. However, the internet is a very valuable means of educating patients, and doctors need to be in the forefront of providing reliable information to their patients. After all, if we don’t take responsibility for educating patients, then who will ?
The future of medical care is e-healthcare, with the promise of online medical records, online pharmacies, telemedicine, patient education, and an ever-expanding list of exciting opportunities. The opportunity to help our patients navigate the wealth of information on the World Wide Web and better educate themselves is now in our hands. We owe it to ourselves and our patients to meet the challenge that lies before us all!
A website is valuable even for doctors in rural areas , who are often cut off from the rest of the world. This is a valuable way of “keeping in touch” , and contributing to the medical knowledgebase.
Are there are any downsides? The major one for doctors in the US is that of legal liabilities. Protecting patient privacy and confidentiality is a major concern, and while this is still not an issue in India as yet, it is likely to become important as the world shrinks even further.
It is true that putting up a website – and updating it - can be time consuming , and you might want to consider outsourcing it. Your website is an image of your clinic – make sure you do a professional job! Typing errors, poor grammar and deadlinks all create a poor impression. Also, make sure you reply promptly to queries and emails! An easier option for academic physicians is to contribute to the medical center’s website. A hospital’s website can be a very valuable way of projecting the work the hospital is doing to the rest of the world. In fact, by encouraging doctors and hospitals to put up their own websites, the Indian Health Ministry can help the Indian medical industry to export their specialized medical services and knowledge – without contributing to brain drain! This can be a valuable source of foreign exchange for the country, and our hospitals can be actively promoted as centers of medical excellence. Indian doctors have the expertise – we just need the infrastructure and the promotion!
And don’t forget the final benefit - once you have your own website, you don’t need to carry your visiting cards anymore! Tell everyone – look me up at my website!