Thoughts for Primary Care Physicians… (Part 1)

University of the Pacific
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I am always shocked when I interact with industries that are lagging far behind the current technological era. Higher Education is one of these areas – and by this I don’t mean the educational institutions but rather the software providers. I am repeatedly shocked at the absolutely horrendous software that is pushed onto higher ed. institutions, but that is another topic for another day.

Another area that demonstrates this sort of technological lack is medicine – especially as it applies to our primary care physicians (PCP) / family doctors. The first glaring sign of this lack is when one attempts to find a doctor. Yes, they show up in the yellow pages and on Google Maps – but do they have a website? By and large: NO! This is astounding, in my humble opinion, when numerous small businesses, almost every other medium business, and many individuals have websites.

In both cases (higher ed and medicine) I believe this sort of lack is the result of two factors:

  1. An ample number of customers mitigating the need for active recruitment.
  2. Key individuals are oftentimes overworked, leaving little time for such “extraneous” considerations.

In this article I’d like to make a few suggestions to health care providers on ways they could improve their service. I will do so by chronicling my current personal search for a primary physician in the Langhorne PA area and the various experiences I encounter in this process. I will also attempt to focus on ways to simplify various aspects of the medical practice, from my lay perspective, as I realize that unless something changes key individuals in the medical profession will not have time to read articles such as this much less implement various suggestions.

Get a Website:

A simple website can be had for a few hundred dollars[1] and will greatly increase your visibility to the community and reduce the number of recurring questions one must answer.

I did find that Wood Lane Wellness Center has a website and is in my local area, but this appears to be a more holistic/alternative health venue – which is not surprising, as there is more pressure for these forms of business to drum up customers than for traditional physicians.

Bucks ENT has a nice website as well, but they are focused on Ear, Nose, and Throat issues rather than primary care – again, not surprising that they have a website since specialists, again, must do more work to drum up a customer base.

Now here is a surprise – and the sort of practice I am looking for – Signature Medicine. Note the following highlights of this site that demonstrate best practices for other medical practitioners looking to launch a website of their own:

  • The overall aesthetic and design of the site is professional, pleasing, and yet simple.
  • Information about the practice, including a fairly detailed (while still brief) summary of the doctor’s experience is presented.
  • Medical services are listed and areas of special focus are included, thus helping someone quickly determine if the doctor has experience in a specific area.
  • The online services section indicates that this practice is committed not only to a web-based presence but also to the active utilization of various technologies to facilitate productive medical treatment.

Note also these issues to avoid:

  • The press page does not include any articles since 2008. One should “make news” at least once a year in some way or other – even if it is just a small blog post like this one. Otherwise it can appear that the practice is not being currently maintained.
  • There are several locations where links don’t work correctly (e.g. the Blog link on the Press page and the Dr. Sitapara link on the About Us page).

Some practices are using a third party service such as ZocDoc to host their online presence, for example, Knights Road Medical Practice. This is okay, but certainly not optimal. Ideally, one should have a presence of one’s own, as well as presences on various services such as ZocDoc.

Then there is Newtown Medical Group, they have a website but it doesn’t say good things about their technological adeptness. This style of website design is 2000’ish and the site should be completely redone. Note that the navigation changes based on what page one is on, overall the site can be confusing to navigate.

Still, they can’t be that far behind – as they do have an online patient portal and allow for virtual visits – two great services…but it is unlikely that many folks who are interested in these sorts of services will remain on the site long enough to make this discovery.

One also sees CVS and Walmart entering the fray with options like The Minute Clinic. While these practices seem efficient and inexpensive, I question their proactivity in providing ongoing care…thus while I might use one in a pinch, I can’t see myself relying on one all the time.

Along similar lines to Newtown Medical Group mentioned above is Woodbourne Family Practice. The site’s design isn’t as much out-of-date as Newtown’s, rather it just lacks a few key essentials – for example, the layout is somewhat confusing with navigation moving around, the color scheme doesn’t always mesh, and so on.

Conclusion:

I’ll have to write some additional articles on other areas of technological innovation for PCP’s, as this post has become quite long enough. Let me just close with these thoughts:

  1. PCP’s are not encouraged to technologically innovate b/c they already have a stable base of clients.
  2. PCP’s are discouraged from technological innovation b/c they are oftentimes overworked.
  3. The use of technological innovation can increase effectiveness and reduce costs in the long-haul and is a worthy investment.
  4. The first step to a technologically adept medical practice is a web presence.
  5. Your web presence should be fairly inexpensive. For the basics, you’ll be looking at <$100/yr. for web hosting and perhaps $500-$2,000 for the initial web site design and content – depending on how much content you desire and what special tweaks one desires.
  1. [1]Yes, I am willing to assist you in this matter, if you so desire, but that is not the goal of this article.

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