I have been a client of Healthcommunities for several years
Northampton, MASS. (Vocus) June 3, 2008
Most physicians want more from their practice website than just a place to send patients for basic office information: they want their website to feature trustworthy patient education information and to be a profitable marketing investment. Effective medical practice websites should be able to attract new patients seeking elective procedures, advertise procedures competitors don't offer, seek clinical trials participants, and demonstrate to potential patients how the practice differs from other practices in the region that are covered by the same insurance plan. In order to be found online in search engines, physicians must successfully compete to attain a top-ten (first-page) ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
There are two ways to achieve a top-ten SERP ranking: 1) through a paid search or 2) by using SEO (search engine optimization) methods to rise in the organic, also called natural, SERPs. The importance of attaining a top-ten SERPs rank has created an industry of professionals selling paid advertising services and search engine optimization services.
Paid search placements generally appear above, or to the right of, organic listings and are marked as sponsored ads. There are two benefits of natural search engine position over paid placements. Paid search results garner fewer clicks because browsers place more value in organic listings, which are ranked by merit rather than purchase price. Studies of click patterns show that natural search results get 65 to 70% of clicks. Secondly, if done right, the SEO path is less expensive and more enduring.
In choosing search engine optimization, practice websites seek to get into the first five positions, since research shows that the top five organic results get nearly 90% of the clicks. Practices also strive to be found for the broadest search term available. For example, it's preferable to be found for a broad search (e.g., "urologist new york city") as opposed to a narrow term ("Dr Smith urologist new york city") because there will be many more searches on the former term.
Physicians who gained a listing in the top 5 positions for broad searches have attained a highly sought after prize. One such physician is Dr. Neil Baum, a urologist in New Orleans who has had a website since 1999 (NeilBaum.com) and is # 1 in Google and Yahoo, for the broad search term, "Urologist New Orleans."
Dr. Baum pays less than $800 per year for his website services, which include search engine optimization, marketing materials, personalized service, and unlimited edits. He contracts services through Healthcommunities.com, Inc., a company that has been producing physician practice websites since 1998.
"I have been a client of Healthcommunities for several years," Dr. Baum says. "They do a very nice job and are reasonably priced. My contact person and website manager is Greg Perham, who is just excellent. He provides great turnaround time when new content is sent to the site. He is also flexible and able to add and modify images and other files that I have been adding to my website. I would say that I get 2-3 new patients a week from the website. So it provides a favorable return on investment (ROI)."
What has Dr. Baum done to develop such a distinct marketing advantage and high position in SERPs for his practice website? Well, for one thing, Dr. Baum is a prestigious urologist who has a very active practice and is well-known by patients, physicians, and the medical community. His high profile and the vitality of his practice partially explain his website's high ranking. The content on his website is frequently refreshed and many browsers visit it as a direct link (as opposed to finding it through search engines), two factors thought to have a favorable impact on search engine rankings. It's beneficial for Dr. Baum to be able to request changes through his Healthcommunities.com contact, who is responsible for updating his site and managing his account. Healthcommunities.com offers much flexibility in the customization of their clients' websites.
Dr. Stanley J. Swierzewski III, a practicing urologist and the founder of Healthcommunities.com, explains that providing physicians with everything they need for a comprehensive, content-rich website that expresses the uniqueness of a practice, but that makes very little demand on a physician's time, has made his medical website model a success. Dr. Swierzewski first began selling physician websites after he built a website for his own practice in 1998 (HampdenUrology.com), at a time when few physicians provided practice information or patient education materials on the Internet. "My goal was to help patients who were looking for answers to medical questions online. Research about the habits of online health care consumers has told us consistently throughout the years that online health information seekers prefer to get information from their own doctor, rather than from a general health information portal. Healthcommunities.com creates professional-looking websites for doctors that help their patients find the information they need quickly, and also provide the most trustworthy patient education information on the Web for common clinical conditions in any given specialty." Healthcommunities.com's medical practice websites come with the added advantage of providing physician-developed and -monitored clinical condition information. Dr. Swierzewski adds "We now provide websites with clinical condition information in 30 different medical specialties."
The underlying architecture of the websites was developed by Ron Chu, Healthcommunities.com's Technology Director and an early pioneer in developing and deploying health information technology on the Internet. Without going into specifics, Mr. Chu states that the design theme of his medical websites is to deliver business advantage through technology. That means maximizing a search engine's ability to see the relevance of the medical websites that Healthcommunities.com builds. From the beginning, Mr. Chu has created systems that stress the importance of search engines and the baseline techniques and tools that were deployed in the development of the earliest websites are still in place and being used today.
"Most physicians recognize the value of radio, newspaper or magazine advertising, billboards, or directories such as the Yellow Pages," says Chu, "however, those forms of advertising -- though they may reach a broader audience -- don't target a potential patient as directly as a website does, allowing the patient to find the practice when he or she actually needs it and is searching for help. In the Internet age, young and old users alike realize that when they need something they have to search for it, compare, and then choose. Consumer-driven decisions about health care providers are becoming less dependent on name recognition and more a factor of search engine position. Many practices neglect the importance of the Internet and underutilize their website or purchase online advertising instead of focusing on improving position in SERPs. Patients should be able to find a doctor online when they need one."
Another prestigious physician at the top of the search engines is Dr. David Kaufman, a urologist in Manhattan whose website is rated in the top 5 for "Urologist New York City" (CentralParkUrology.com). He also relies on Healthcommunities.com for his website services and spends less than $800 per year. Dr. Kaufman says, "My computer savvy patients are extremely impressed with my high standing in the Google [results] for urologists in NYC; I am always in the top three listings on the 1st of close to a hundred pages! I have noticed an increasing role of the website in directing patients to my office over the past few years. I think it is safe to say that the website is now my #1 referral source - more valuable to my practice than the referring doctors who have been directing patients to me for years. I originally intended for the website to be a tool to offer my current patients more medical information, or perhaps to make people feel more comfortable with me after they were given my name, but before they actually met me. The website has in fact, wildly exceeded any expectations that I had for it with regard to growing my practice."