April 2001 Bulletin

Reach your patients with your AAOS web site

Members say it is easy to build and is an added value service to patients

By Carolyn Rogers

If your practice doesn’t have its own web site, not only do you run the risk of being seen as "behind the times" by your patients, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to educate your patients about you, your practice and their orthopaedic conditions. A web site is also an easy way to market your services to new patients. The AAOS is offering members the opportunity to build their own web sites for free. Simply click on the "Member Services" button on the AAOS home page, at www.aaos.org, scroll down to "Create your own web site" and you’ll be up and running in no time.

"It took me about 45 minutes to create the site," says Margaret Baker, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in Port Angeles, Wash. "I had no problems at all…I have two other sites as well, but the AAOS site is nicer looking, more versatile, and has the capability for more patient info links and downloads. I check my site utilization stats, and I usually get a few dozen hits per month."

"It didn’t take long to set up," says Gail Martin, practice manager for Susan M. Swank, MD, in Whittier, Calif. "Probably just a couple hours–including the time it took for someone at the Academy to e-mail back to us answering whatever questions we had. If you’ve got your practice brochure and a CV in your hands, it’s very easy to do."

Dr. Swank’s AAOS web site has been up for just a few months, but Martin sees it as a great way to educate patients.

"Patients come in all the time with information they got off the web, and you have to be aware of where they’re getting that information from–sometimes its just chat rooms," she explains. "So it’s good to have our own web sites to refer them to. Hooking up with the Academy’s web site gives us access to their patient education brochures–we really like that aspect of it."

Felasta Wodajo, MD, an orthopaedist in Greenbelt, Md, appreciates the fact that the AAOS has "stepped in to facilitate the use of the Internet for physicians and patients–not allowing us to surrender this basic means of communication entirely to the private sector," Dr. Wodajo says. "The site is a professional alternative to the myriad vendors who are using the lure of ‘free’ web sites and other services to capture physicians’ interest in their products."

The AAOS’s site, referred to as "Orthodoc," offers two web site design templates. Both templates offer space for a photo, a practice logo, a personal message from the physician, the physician’s educational background, board certification and focus, office location and hours, patient education material, affiliations, insurance plans accepted, and links to other sites.

Members also can link to the more than 250 patient/public education fact sheets, brochures and booklets on Your Orthopaedic Connection at http://orthoinfo.aaos.org. All the material is peer reviewed by AAOS members. The site is being continually expanded.

James W. Adams, MD, a hand surgeon in Washington Terrace, Utah, built his web site several months ago. He was sure to include patient education information provided by the AAOS on conditions and treatments.

"There’s a public education aspect to this as well as a marketing aspect, I believe," Dr. Adams says.

Jay Mabrey, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in San Antonio, Texas, agrees, "it’s a great way to refer patients to additional information. We have a large adult reconstruction practice, so a lot of our patients have their children look up information on the web. This way, they can see who their doctor is, read his or her CV, access all of the brochures–all without calling the office."

Christopher Oliver, MD, an orthopaedist in Edinburgh, Scottland, who helped with the some of Orthodoc’s initial design concept and testing, says, "The web is so powerful. I think the site is an added value service to my patients, and they’re very grateful. My web stats show it has had over 600 visitors."

Carlos Guanche, MD, an orthopaedic surgeon in Minneapolis, Minn., reports, "I’ve already had a few patients come to see me as a result of finding the site. I think anything that helps expose you to patients in a competitive environment will help."

Hearing positive feedback from colleagues who felt their practice had benefited from being online prompted Maj. Thomas DeBerardino, MD, an orthopaedist at Fort Sam Houston near San Antonio, to build his site.

"My first page, with the basics, took just minutes to create," he says. "Adding links, a personal picture and adjusting the ‘look’ was a snap, too…I think the best features of the site are its streamlined design and ease of navigation, combined with the customizability aspects."

Edward Toriello, MD, an orthoapedic surgeon in solo practice in Middle Village, N.Y. says, "I had no problems building my site and actually found it quite enjoyable to sit and reflect about my practice. I especially like the ‘personal philosophy’ section, since it gives my patients a chance to get a feel for what I do and wish to accomplish with them. I found the AAOS staff extremely helpful and prompt in doing things like putting my picture on the site. And the prompts on the site construction pages are easy to follow, even for a guy with limited computer prowess."

So once you’ve taken that step and created your site, how do you "market" it?

"Put your web site address on all of your business cards, all your brochures and letterhead," says George Yanik, MD, of MedWeb Consultants. "Anywhere your logo goes, your web address should go–mailers, billing stationary, ads in the local paper, etc."

Just about every e-mail program has the ability to put in a signature file–preformatted text that includes your name and whatever else you’d like to incorporate, adds Larry Boardman, president of Web Doctor, an Internet promotion and web site development company. "Make sure your web site address is in that file," he says. "And get involved in news groups, local discussion groups on sports injuries, etc.–that’s a very powerful, no-cost way of publicizing your name and your web site."

Of course, Dr. Yanik says, physicians have to be careful of any claims they make on their web sites. "Never make any claims of superiority. Stay away from statements like ‘I was the first,’ unless you have really good documentation to back you up. Don’t give medical opinions online, because that’s basically practicing medicine in every state in the union. Blanket statements about treatment are okay, but the idea is to get new patients into your office, not to practice over the net."

In terms of web site content, you want to get patients to keep coming back to your site," Dr. Yanik points out. "Keep adding new information; include a ‘disease of the week feature–things that will bring back return visitors."

Here are a few more marketing ideas from orthopaedists who have already created their own "Orthodoc" sites:

Building a personalized Orthodoc web site "is a great way to give yourself more exposure online at no cost–not easy these days," says Paul Collins, MD, an orthopaedist in Boise, Idaho. "And it’s constantly being upgraded with new options and better patient information. This results in a web site that can be kept fresh and personal. Patients–even the ‘geeks’–will be impressed that ‘you’ managed to do such a good job."

Dr. DeBerardino says he ‘s received many favorable responses to his site from his patients and colleagues. "Colleagues in other specialties are envious of our ability to create and maintain such sites through our Academy and wish their organizations would follow suit," he adds. "I wholeheartedly encourage all AAOS members to create their own "Orthodoc" personal web site, since I fully anticipate the AAOS parent site to be the main orthopaedic portal for both surgeons and others seeking information about our specialty."

Dr. Adams agrees. "I think it’s a very positive thing that the Academy is offering this service. And it’s just silly if physicians and clinics don’t take advantage of that and market it for everything it’s worth."

Here are the web sites for the orthopaedists quoted in the article:

James Adams, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/adams

Margaret Baker, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/cbjs

Paul Collins, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/pcc

Maj. Thomas DeBerardino: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/deberardino

Carlos Guanche, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/carlosguanchemd

Jay Mabrey, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/mabrey

Christopher Oliver, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/chrisoliver

Susan M. Swank, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/susanmswankmd

Edward Toriello, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/toriello

Felasta Wodajo, MD: http://orthodoc.aaos.org/wodajo

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