Getting your practice website right

Dr Osman Bhatti offers some advice on designing the practice website, what information you should include and how to ensure it is kept up-to-date.

It is essential that practices keep their website up-to-date (Picture: iStock)
It is essential that practices keep their website up-to-date (Picture: iStock)

Does your practice have a website? If you think not, then think again. All practices in England have a web presence on NHS Choices, just put your practice postcode into the search facility to find yours.

You may have created your own website for the surgery, or commissioned one of the many website creation companies out there to do one for you.

Whatever method you have used to get a presence on the internet, you need to ensure that anyone looking at your site (or your NHS Choices page) gets the right information about your practice that is accurate and up to date.

The biggest issue with having a website is that the information quickly becomes outdated. If you have not got a procedure for updating the site then your patients, potential patients and even staff will be misinformed.

At the very least, practices should ensure that their NHS Choices page is correct and updated

Keep information clear

The key to any information is that it is clear and to the point. Don’t be tempted by fancy graphics or text as the key to information from GP practices is just that – information.

Too much clutter, too many words or ugly graphics will put patients off so you need to get the balance right.

Look at your patient base and perhaps use your patient participation group from time to time to sit down and navigate your website in front of you to see if they can find information that they need.

Why not get your reception staff to go through your website and give some honest feedback too.

Basic design tips

Try to stick to a standard font throughout your website to ensure it is nice and clear and not more than two different fonts on the whole site should be a standard rule.

As for pictures, only have them if they are relevant. If you do use pictures make sure they are sized correctly for webpages so that they load quickly.

Practices tend to use pictures of the practice, staff members and a map of the location. Ensure that these are clear. If you are including staff pictures, try and keep a consistent look and background rather than using random photos.Also be aware that some staff members may want their photo to be published online so get consent first.

Keeping your website up to date

As I’ve mentioned, updating is key, so assign a couple of staff to keep a regular review of your website. These staff can also manage your NHS Choices website and note any comments that patients make about your practice.

To ensure your website is user friendly it is essential to have the correct links – missing pages should be avoided. Whenever something is added, changed or updated get someone to check it to see if they can easily view what has been updated.

If patients comment on your practice on NHS Choices, try and look at the feedback as a practice and get all your staff to engage in the process of identifying any issues raised. Make sure everyone knows about any positive comments as well. Getting your staff involved will keep them engaged and perhaps give you further feedback.

What to put on your site

Use your website to really communicate and personalise issues for your patients. Perhaps you have a recent survey that you want to publish – upload it to the website and direct patients to it.

You can also upload your patient participation group (PPG) report and inform your patients of any changes, or new services that you are offering.

On our practice website (http://www.chrispstreet.org), we have included information about our PPG, our additional clinics, our patient charter, a guide to booking appointments as well as a guide of who patients should book with for different services. Again, the key is to keep the information up to date.

If you also use online services, such as appointment booking or repeat prescription requesting, ensure it is obvious from the website that these services are offered and that the pages are linked to appropriately and easy to find.

Advertising

Quite a lot of websites have adverts attached to generate income for the website provider. This can be variable and your practice may or may not have a view on this. If you have a strong view about this, tell your site provider. You don’t want to appear to be endorsing a product or service if you have views about them within your practice.

  • Dr Osman Bhatti is a GP in east London

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