To be effective, a website should not be static; the highest-value websites are ones which provide current information, updated frequently. If a medical subject is of immediate concern to your patients, your physician website should reflect that.

Your role as a medical caretaker also makes you a high-profile source for medical information. You can meet that expectation by keeping your website fresh and relevant to your patients’ concerns. Offering original content consisting of short articles is an effective way of serving your patients. These articles describe and explain medical issues, without being long or involving detailed scientific data. They should be focused on a single subject and be easily understood by a lay patient.

The tone can – in fact, should – be the same as if you were in an examination room with a patient, discussing the subject face-to-face. A relatively easy way to create such an article is to dictate a short (300 to 400 word) piece discussing a specific medical issue. The dictation can be transcribed through your usual procedure, which will allow you to edit it before it is uploaded onto your website.

The best organization for an article is to state a problem or situation (“There have be a number of cases of spontaneous remission of Hansen’s Disease…”), give some background (“new strains of flu are identified every year…”) and conclude with an action or response (“but if the area around the tick bite begins to show a red rash that resembles a bulls-eye, you should make an appointment to be tested for Lyme Disease…”). Supporting references can be incorporated into the text itself (“the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that…”).

The good news is that you will have no trouble coming up with topics. A useful rule of thumb is that, if more than three or four patients broach a specific question or concern, there are probably ten times as many who are at least thinking about that subject. By addressing it in your website, you will not only serve your patients as their medical advisor but will spare yourself the trouble of having to cover the same ground over and over with each patient.

Health in the news: The general news media offer a constant stream of medical information, often in a way that is both superficial and confusing. Your website gives you an opportunity to clear up rumors, explain conflicting claims and help your patients avoid making medical decisions based on incorrect data. Fads, garbled reports and false claims are all areas that can be addressed.

‘Tis the season: Some injuries and illnesses can occur at any time, but seasonal activity, weather-related dangers and the cyclic nature of some diseases (influenza, for example) can all be addressed in turn as the year progresses. Anything from sunburn prevention to school-mandated inoculations can be addressed on your physician website.

Local concerns: Providing information on medical conditions and concerns specific to your area adds the highest value to your website. Nashville, Tennessee suffered through a terrible flood in May of 2010. A flood or hurricane can present a greater likelihood of some waterborne illnesses. Less dramatic events such as a local outbreak of rubella, pertussis or head lice among school-age children can also be the subject of practical advice on your website.

When new articles are posted, older website content may be retired, at least for a while. Don’t delete them; create an archive on your website that can be accessed by your users. Computer storage is cheap and you never know when one of your patients may want to revisit a subject that had been discussed months earlier on your website.

As you develop a collection of articles and short reports for your patients, you can use their feedback to help you gauge the effectiveness of your efforts. The web design firm that develops and maintains your website can create an email-based response section on your physician website. The reactions and suggestions you receive can be very helpful.

A website reflects on your practice in many ways. By adding new content to your website, particularly articles directed at your patients’ specific needs, you are projecting yourself as a professional, dynamic and effective physician.

– George Bear