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Jack Ahern, MBA

Happy Spring! As we start anew, it is time to revisit an aspect of operating and marketing your dialysis facility that is often overlooked: your website.

Some units may be best served by more elaborate websites, while still others, simple ones. With your own website you can shape your image on an ongoing basis and not be dependent on third-party. Your website is yours to create, change, and expand.

Your Website: Connecting You to Your World

Websites are commonly used for: 1) marketing by communicating value and 2) providing specific information. Dialysis facility websites should be uniquely adapted to your facility's niche and to your patients' needs. Websites should reach out to potential patients, new patients and established patients. New patients may be planning to travel to your area, and searching for the best facility to meet their needs, or perhaps, having made arrangements with you, are looking on their smart phone for your facility as they travel and simply need directions.

Five Website Quality Checks

  1. Do your patients use and like your website?
  2. Do your physicians use and like your website?
  3. Is your website easy to update?
  4. Does your website assist with referrals?
  5. Is your website cost effective?

Do Patients and Physicians Like Your Webpage?

One of the most important goals of your website is patient and physician satisfaction. To ensure that your website is patient friendly, ask your patients for their input; have them rate your website on a numerical scale, answering a few quick and easy questions. Get your nephrologist to critique your website - you never know, they may not have looked too closely since they work at your unit and are focused on other tasks.

"Contact Us" may be one of the most important pages on your website. Make sure you have both email and phone information. Also, make sure you have someone designated to respond to website generated emails. Directions to your facility are also an important feature; using a GPS friendly address is also helpful.

The old adage, "a picture's worth a thousand words" is still true with websites. Consider posting the view looking out from inside your clinic. Photos of your facility and staff-the people and place the patients will see when they come-can help new patients feel more at home.

The website of the larger chain dialysis providers have fliers that patients can download with information, as well as information explaining dialysis, the types of dialysis available, and the pharmaceuticals in use with relevant information. Useful resources, such as recipes, attract users to visit their websites on a regular basis. With advances in Web design technology and software, independent and smaller facilities can now easily match most of the Web-related features provided by the larger dialysis organizations.

Is Your Website Easy to Update?

An optimized website is a snap for you to update. If you can update your page weekly, then you can post timely items-like event calendars. However, don't post information that will quickly be out of date unless you can replace it with new material in a timely manner.

Does your Website Facilitate Referrals?

Consider your present and desired ideal referral pattern. Your website should enhance this process, which may vary considerably from facility to facility and from nephrologist to nephrologist.

Outsourcing vs. In-House Web Development

So, you have decided to take control and to design and manage your own a website. What next? You can hire companies or individuals to accomplish this for you for a variety of fees or you can do it yourself. As for me, I've tried both approaches. Initially, I invested in a Web designer to create a website, and later found that it was much easier in the long run to have my website developed and managed in-house. At Ahern Consulting Group, we continue to create and modify our own website and now offer web development services to renal facilities. Getting up to speed took a while, but was well worth the effort. For us, developing in house and easy-to-manage talent was the best option. Take a look at www.AhernConsulting.com and tell me what you think. What can we improve on our website? I'll bet we can implement your suggestion in less than a day.

Whichever Web strategy you choose, I suggest you keep control of your passwords and access codes and avoid being completely dependent on outside expertise. As always, I invite you to send me your comments at jahern@ahernconsulting.com and let me know what you think!

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Jack Ahern, MBA - As a seasoned Healthcare Executive, Instructor, Author and Financial Manager, Jack Ahern brings to the table expertise gained by managing finances for an academic medical center, and providing guidance to physicians, hospitals, HMO's and major academic medical centers on issues pertaining to physician and hospital billing, hospital administration, strategic planning, renal dialysis reimbursement, HIPAA, ethics, regulatory issues and compliance.

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