This month, Tech Talk looks at physician practice websites and explains how to register your own domain name.
Defining Your Website
What do you want to communicate through your website? Who do you want to visit your site? Are you a small primary care practice or a large specialty group? To design an effective website, you must define who you are and what your organization is about.
Providing general contact information on your website turns it into a marketing tool, enabling people in your area to easily find you online, instead of looking in the phone book, local hospital directory, or insurance directory. You can also use a website to advertise your medical interests, credentials, association memberships, and any community services that your practice supports. Practice websites can even increase practice efficiency—posting even basic information, such as office hours and directions, can help reduce unnecessary calls to the front desk—and provide educational materials for your patients, such as AAFP Patient Information handouts, which can help them learn more about a specific issue you discussed during their visit. A larger specialty practice (presumably with a larger budget) might get more sophisticated, providing current and prospective patients with a wide range of information and resources, such as videos of procedures and online diagnostic tools.
Getting a Domain Name
Next, you must decide on a domain name for your site. A domain name consists of two parts: the name itself and the extension. When the Internet was established, extensions were created to more easily categorize and identify websites—.com for commercial entities, .edu for educational institutions, .org for non-profi ts, etc. Many other domain extensions also exist, including .net, .info, and .biz. In general, anybody can choose any extension they want, providing the name is available and not used by somebody else.
Most medical practices choose to go with the familiar .com extension. You may be able to reserve an intuitive domain name, such as one that matches your name (eg, “drbertman.com”). If the name you want is not available with the .com extension, you can usually get the exact name you want with a diff erent extension. If all the extensions are taken, you’ll have to be creative and pick a different unique name—instead of “greatdoctor.com,” try “greatfamilydoctor.com.” There are several registration services you can use to search for available website names, all of which charge roughly the same fee for a standard domain name registration. Well-known registrars include NetworkSolutions.com, GoDaddy.com, and DirectNIC.com. NetworkSolutions.com is great if all you want to do is register a domain name. It has a clean, easy-to-use interface. GoDaddy.com and DirectNIC.com are better if you want all-inclusive packages that provide domain name registration and website hosting.
You can register the domain name for one year or for multiple years, which usually gets you a small discount. I suggest signing up for a two- or three-year registration with automatic renewal. If you forget to renew your domain name, someone else can come along and snatch it away from you.
A domain name is your online identity, so choose a name you will want to live with for a long time and that’s descriptive yet easy to remember. Giving it a local angle is also a good idea, since most people tend to seek
healthcare services in their area. Next month, we’ll look at how to easily build your website and make sure the major search engines can find it.
Dr. Bertman is Physician Editor-in-Chief of MDNG: Primary Care/Cardiology Edition. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Brown University and president of AmazingCharts.com, a leading developer of Electronic Health Record (EHR) software. He also is the founder and president of AfraidToAsk.com, a consumer website focusing on personal medical topics. He is in private practice in Hope Valley, Rhode Island.