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Fall 2009


Anesthesiology Practice Web Sites

Joe Laden
Anesthesia Associates of Louisville, PSC, Louisville, KY

Virtually all large anesthesiology practices have a corporate website. Some are quite detailed and complex. Fewer medium and small practices maintain a web presence. Should every practice consider creating a practice website or upgrading its current site?

After examining a number of anesthesia practice websites, one can see that most have common elements and purposes. Before considering website design, the practice should seriously consider the purpose of the website and its intended effects.

The reasons given by anesthesia practices for expending the time and money needed to produce an effective website are to implement one or more of the following:

  1. Establish a “web presence”
  2. Recruit anesthesia personnel via the website
  3. Provide patient information
  4. Assist in the patient billing process
  5. Schedule anesthesiologists via surgeon preference
  6. Internal uses such as maintaining call schedules, document retrieval and communications.
  7. 7.Marketing to patients, surgeons and facilities seeking anesthesia coverage.

Web Presence

Currently, almost every business has a website, so anesthesiology practices may believe that they too should have one. However, many surgical anesthesiology practices with exclusive hospital contracts do not experience competitive pressure and have not yet seen the need for a web presence. Pain management practices are more market-driven and usually maintain a web site that can help promote their services to patients and referring physicians. Although a web presence alone may not be the motivating factor to establish a website, practices should consider the fact that most businesses are found these days via internet searches. A simple but well designed website may be an alternative to a costly listing in the business pages of the local telephone book.

Recruiting

Some anesthesia practices state that their website is mainly for recruiting purposes. This is especially true of practices that employ CRNAs and experience difficulty with hiring and turnover. A properly designed and maintained web site can appear at the top of search results that are run by physicians or CRNAs seeking employment in your area. Some practices post jobs and allow resumes to be submitted through their website. If your local competitors are doing this and you are not, you are at a disadvantage. With proper search engine placement and a long term strategy for recruitment, the anesthesia website can reduce or eliminate the need for outside recruiters as well as for recruiting and advertising fees.

Patient Medical Information

Many practices place extensive patient education information on their web site. This information may be generic such as the description of the types of anesthesia and anesthesia complications. Specific information such as the anesthesia group’s preoperative testing requirements can be available on the website. The ASA has patient information on its website that can be linked to.

Patient Billing

In addition to billing and collection policies and procedures, some practices have links to the practice’s billing company. It may also be possible to provide a mechanism for patients to view and pay their bills on the practice web site with credit cards and PayPal.

Anesthesia and Surgery Scheduling

In some areas of the country, anesthesiologists compete within hospitals and are scheduled by surgeon preference. A web presence and scheduling system are vital to these practices.

Marketing

Beyond a simple “web presence”, some anesthesiology groups market their skills and experience to the community and to prospective facilities in need of anesthesiology services. To do this the website could describe the group’s accomplishments and special services it delivers to the facilities at which it operates. If the group is involved in community activities and charities, these can be promoted on the web site.

Practices with office-based pain management divisions usually describe these services on the website and provide contact, location and hours of operation information.

Internal Use

Some practices maintain a website only for internal use and some include a private section with password access on their public website.

Internal uses include: call and vacation schedules, posting of clinical and business documents and internal communications. Practices that use a commercial web-based scheduling system can post a link to their system here.

Hosting and Cost

A website can be hosted on your corporate network or via a web hosting service. Hosting should not cost more than a few hundred dollars per year. The cost of designing and implementing a web site can range from zero for a simple web page hand-coded by someone in the practice to tens of thousands of dollars for the elaborate web site of a large anesthesiology practice.

Website Placement

If you want prospective employees and local patients to find your website by searching using Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines, you need to take some steps to assure that your site will be retrieved high in the search engine results lists. This is called Search Engine Optimization and the techniques to do this will be known by your website designer.

Implementing Your Website

An anesthesiology practice will most likely use a professional website design company to product a website or upgrade its current website. However, before the website design work is done, the practice manager and one or more physicians should examine the websites of many local and national anesthesiology practices to obtain ideas about the website elements the practice would like to emulate.

Having a good idea as to the layout and features of one’s website before the implementation process starts can save the practice time and money and make it much more likely to produce an effective result.

Continuing Relevance

After the anesthesiology website is implemented, it should be updated frequently with current information about the practice. If you scan the web looking for anesthesia group web sites, you will find ones that look like they have not been updated in years. Someone in your practice should be designated to keep the website up-to-date. One way to make your website look current is to include frequently updated news items or a patient information blog on the front page.

Some examples of Good Anesthesia Practice Websites

Private Practice

www.valleyanesth.com, www.amg-group.com, www.gasdocs.com, http://www.wacmdpa.com, www.northeasternanesthesia.com, www.anesthesiapmc.com, seanesthesiology.com

Pediatric

www.napdocs.com

Academic

www.anes.ucla.edu, anesthesia.duhs.duke.edu, my.clevelandclinic.org/anesthesia/default.aspx

Pain

www.michiganspineandpain.com


Joe Laden has served as the Business Manager for Anesthesia Associates of Louisville, PSC since 1981. He has written many articles about anesthesia business topics and has made presentations at MGMA, ASA and other business conferences. To contact Joe with any questions or comments about information in article: joeladen@aalouisville.com. More lists of academic and private practice websites can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/joeladen/Home


ASA’s Lifelineto ModernMedicine.com

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) recently launched a website, www.LifelinetoModernMedicine.com to help educate and inform patients and the public at large. Among the important tools on this site are the Anesthesia&Me© checklist, a form to be filled out with an individual’s medical history, current medications, allergies and additional items necessary for proper anesthesia care. LifelinetoModernMedicine.com also gives patients details about what to expect before and after surgery from an anesthesia perspective. In the September, 2009 issue of its Newsletter, ASA asked all members to post a link to the new website from their own websites and to help spread the word by other means.