MIAMI BEACHWith nearly 228 million people accessing the
Internet worldwide, it has become impossible not to give at least
some thought as to how it may be affecting physicians practices
and whether you should jump onto the webpage bandwagon.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Network for Oncology
Communication and Research (NOCR), Chris Efessious said that 68% of
the people accessing the Internet use it for news and information,
56% for travel, 50% for movies and entertainment, and 46% for health
and medicine information.
Your patients are probably getting information before they walk
into your office, said Mr. Efessious, of Boron LePore Digital
A webpage immediately sets a physicians office apart from
others if it has some or all of the following elements: a welcome,
practice information, education, patient support areas, and contact
information. The latter is most important in Mr. Efessious
Many websites miss this fundamental issue of why they even
exist, he said. A good website needs to put information
out, but it also must get information back in.
Information can be brought back in through online patient surveys and
digital scheduling whereby patients can make their own appointments
electronically. Its not so difficult to keep control of
the schedule, Mr. Efessious said, if certain times or
days are blocked off for electronic scheduling.
Communicating With Others MDs
A webpage is also a good sales tool, as it can give referring
physicians and colleagues access to information about their patients,
Mr. Efessious said. A mailing distribution list called a ListServ can
be used to inform referring physicians of news and practice updates.
He added that private, password-protected chat rooms can be set up
where colleagues can meet for virtual morning rounds.
Using the webpage wisely can give a practice more presence and
differentiate it from others. But, it cannot just be a
billboard, he said. The webpage can be used for conducting
online patient education classes, for example, or as an information
and registration page where people can find out where and when the
classes are being held.
Areas for patients to post questions such as bulletin boards or a
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) area represent other ways to get
The idea of an Ask the Doctor area gave the NOCR audience
some pause. An oncologist with a large breast cancer practice asked
about being inadvertently dragged into litigation if an answer given
online were ever used in court.
Dr. Stan Winokur, director of the NOCR, which has its own webpage (www.nocr.com),
put the question in a social context. What you and your
patients discuss behind closed doors about their particular problem
is far different from what you would say at a cocktail party,
he said, or on the Internet. Both Dr. Winokur and Mr. Efessious said
that answers to questions online should always be qualified and only
stated in general terms.
I believe smart doctors are going to recognize this as an
extension of what weve been doing for the last 25 years,
Dr. Winokur said. Its a new tool; you may use it
selectively, but you need to know that its out there and a lot
of people are using it.