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Case Presentation without Selling • Creating a Web Site • Dental Practice Web Sites • Internet Advertising

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Creating Your Dental Practice Web Site

adapted from material by
Laurence I. Barsh, DMD

Imagine that you had a dental assistant who worked 24 hours a day, 365 days a year ... and never asked for a raise! Imagine that the assistant marketed your practice to a local and worldwide market and could answer all of your patients` questions. Imagine that this assistant could distribute information on new, state-of-the-art services as soon as they became available, could gather data that would help market your practice in the future, and had personal contact with over 50 million potential patients. Welcome to the World Wide Web!

Any 12-year-old with a computer can put a page on the Web and that's the problem! Surf the Net and look at some of the dental-practice sites. They usually include the dentist's name, office address and phone number, hours of operation, insurance plans accepted, maybe a picture of the dentist and staff, perhaps a map, and a list of all the great things the dentist can accomplish, complete with illustrations; in other words, a practice brochure on-line! (That 12-year-old sure has been busy!) All of these things are necessary in a dental Web site, but experience has proven that Web sites limited to simply providing practice information accomplish nothing more than satisfying the ego of the practitioner.

Futurists predict that the Internet will alter even more profoundly the way both society and business function in the coming century. The Web is well on its way to becoming the dominant medium in our society. One reason for this is its unprecedented rate of adoption by an estimated 50 million users merely three years after its commercialization.

Recent surveys from the Institute for the Future, Princeton Research Associates, and Louis Harris & Associates were reported in the New York Times on July 9. The survey showed that two-thirds of the people who go on-line have sought health information on the Web, and that 67 percent of doctors interviewed said they had patients who came in with information they found on the Internet.

One significant factor separating successful from unsuccessful practices in the next century will be how proactive a practice is in capitalizing on the strengths of the Net to increase patient value. For a dental Web site to be truly successful, the site developer must understand how this new paradigm of practice operates.

So it's no surprise that the rules of the game are changing and, with it, the way we communicate with patients. Successful Web sites should be built on six driving principles of this new paradigm:

1) A properly constructed Web site will provide the patient with the ability to tailor information to his/her specific needs.

2) Electronic renderings of print media generally fail. On-line marketing creates a wealth of new ways to exploit patient attention that are not available offline. With the availability of color, interactivity, animation and sound, on-line versions of printed materials will not hold the interest of most Internet-savvy consumers. With space on the Internet virtually limitless and with all the technological advances that currently are available to Web-site designers, there are no excuses for setting up a boring Web site.

3) Instant interactivity is critical. For example, if a patient needs specific information about home care of dental implants, rather than care of natural dentition, a Web site can be constructed to provide this specific information rather than generic information about home care in general. Being the source of customized dental information can be a powerful marketing tool, as well as serving the needs of the Internet community.

4) People are interested in what affects them. Technologically-aware patients do not merely want customized information access. They want some indication that a practice acknowledges their individuality in all its dealings with them. These preferences can range from whether a patient prefers morning or afternoon appointments to whether a patient prefers to be addressed by their first name or their last name. Data-driven Web sites provide an excellent opportunity for patients to obtain this information and more at their convenience on-line. This creates a community base solidly in your practice's foundation.

5) People have power. It no longer is necessary for your patients to walk down the street to consult another dentist about a suggested service or fees. On the Web, your competitor is just a mouse click away. The Internet's future is about empowering the consumer. In the future, there will be no reason why someone will not be able to smile into the camera on top of the TV-computer, capture the image, and design his/her own smile. With this image in hand, this potential patient can then visit various Web sites and get an idea of whether that smile is achievable - and even get a cost and time estimate - all on-line without leaving the comfort of his/her living room.

6) Competition always will exist. Your competition will exploit the advantages of the Web whether you do or do not. Having a presence on the Web is essential for the dental practice of the future.

This article was adapted from material by Laurence I. Barsh, DMD, from his Dental Economics article of December, 1998

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