Article Date: 6/1/2005

The Secrets of Effective Web Sites
Plug-ins can transform your Web site into a round-the-clock employee.

While the dotcom bomb left a lot of our stock portfolios decimated, the Internet is alive and well. The companies left behind in the technology rubble (Amazon, ebay, etc.) have had notable increases in business. Indeed, this past holiday season saw almost a 30% increase in online shopping. All this tells us that your patients use the Internet.

How then can we capitalize on this "new" technology?

The big secret to building an effective Web site is to realize that it can be so much more than an electronic brochure. Log on to most O.D. Web sites and you'll see information about office hours, insurance plans, pictures of their "friendly and courteous staff," etc. While not necessarily negatives, providing patients with a site that only contains this cursory information is selling the capabilities of modern Web sites short.

Do what the airlines do

Having flown more than 100,000 miles in 2004, I'm acutely aware of how the airline industry has changed because of their Web sites.

Before the Internet, I called a sales agent who would use a computer to tell me about available flights. I would hurriedly scribble down my choices and then decide which flight I wanted.

Now, because of Web sites, I choose my own flights at my convenience. I also choose my seat, can order a special meal and print my own boarding pass. So, not only has the airline reduced its labor costs dramatically, it has me using my own paper and toner to print my boarding pass — they have, in effect, taken their e-ticket machines into my office.

We counsel clients to think of Web sites as another employee — one that is available 24/7/365, always tells patients what you want and never calls in sick.

Now, for your practice

There are many airline equivalents for our practices. We can enable our Web sites with various "plug-ins" and have each one act as an employee.

For example, offers real-time Web scheduling that interfaces with your desktop appointment scheduler. Like passengers choosing their seats on the plane, your patients can schedule an appointment.

The process of buying a plane ticket is mimicked when you let patients buy contact lenses from your web site. has a unique way to do this that involves no staff involvement.

Just as passengers can fill out their preferences for future flights, we can have patients use to complete their history information before entering our offices. This data is then automatically sent to your office desktop computer, avoiding the tasks of printing and double entry.

Paying for your flight online involves reduced labor costs for the airlines. Similarly, using a service like, patients will soon be able to verify their insurance benefits themselves before coming to your office. Talk about making your staff happy!

Another great feature of this site is that other services above like web scheduling, contact lens ordering and patient satisfaction surveys can also be plugged into your site — and this can all happen with virtually no Web site-building knowledge!

Reach beyond the basics

Sure, a Web site should have a map to your office and talk about what's new in contact lenses. But with today's technology, you can actually put the Web's power to work for you in ways we only dreamed of a few years ago. Embrace this technology now. Your patients expect it and your staff will thank you for reducing the burden of repetitive tasks.


Optometric Management, Issue: June 2005