An Office Website in Five Easy Steps                                        
 by Steven D. Atwood, M.D., FACP
 satwood@pol.net

3.11.02

Don't be left behind
Setting up an office website is easy, thanks to the advances in software to produce web pages.
If you don't already have an office website, then now is the time to start one.
Starting a nice office website can cost as little as 4 hours of your time and $150 per year to maintain.  Many patients routinely select a physician based on information they find on the web, and soon the web may be more commonly used than the Yellow Pages when someone is trying to locate services. A physician's ad in the Yellow Pages is important, but a website can cost less and provide far more information.  If you really want to profile your services and provide your patients with quick, easy information on your practice 24/7, then the web is for you.

5 easy steps
A simple office website can be set up with relatively minimal prior experience.
Set up really requires just 5 simple steps:
        1.    reserve your name
        2.    arrange for an ISP to host your address
        3.    buy a web page authoring program
        4.    construct a few pages using some pictures from your office and the
                  basic office information
         5.   upload your web site to your ISP

Name of your site
The first step of starting your website is to decide what name you want to have.
If you want your own unique name, then you must reserve it. The cost is basically  $35 per year and several companies such as  Network Solutions (
www.networksolutions.com) are authorized to record your registration. Once you request a name, it is your personal property and no one else can have it. You lose your name at the time of registration renewal unless you reregister.  If you want to piggyback on to someone else's site, then you can be a subdirectory off of their web site.  This will allow you to have your information and files in your own section, but  the basic operation of your site will be controlled by the owner of the primary site.   This is how doctors get addresses like www.drjones.mydoctor.com or www.mydoctor.com/drjones These sites generally are free.
Sites like www.springfield-medical.com are reserved names and an Internet Service Provider (ISP) will host it for you on their company's computers. The charge to put your site on their computer is called a hosting fee and ranges $10-$25 per month with a discount for payment a year at a time.

Free hosts
The most common free hosts restricted to medical sites are:
www.medem.com          for members of the AMA and several other professional  organizations
                                                                                                                             
(www.adultmedicine.yourmd.com )
www.pol.net                  for any physician                                                       (www.mydoctor.com/satwood )
www.salu.net                 for any doctor and perhaps the most feature rich (www.adultmed.salu.net   )                                 
www.mdchoice.com     for any physician                                                        ( www.mdchoice.com/adultmed)
www.myhealth.com      for primary care from Claritin rep                 ( www.myhealth.com/Steven_Atwood )

These sites supply a template and you fill in the information then their software  constructs your site.  These sites can be constructed in just a few minutes and you can't beat the free price. They also offer the advantage of looking up other physician's sites.

Purchase hosting
Signing up with an ISP to host your site is the preferred route if you really want to control your message and pictures on your site.   These hosts also offer features such as a database, sending e-mail from your web page to another address as an alias, and submit forms that can send you information that is formatted as you wish-- and always guaranteed to be virus free.  Most of the extra features are free except for the database service. A database link is usually an extra $15-$25 per month.  Some excellent ISP's used by local offices are listed below.

www.ctsserver.com www.bluegenesis.com www. home.verio.com
www.readyhost.com www.ihighway.com www.hosting.com

Software
Designing web pages has become very easy with the web page authoring programs available the last couple of years.  Basically you just buy software that costs $50-500 or use a free trial version of the same software that you can download and construct your page much the same way you would use your office word processor. These programs are generally very easy to use and they allow you to insert pictures, tables, text, and hyperlinks as much as your heart desires. Front Page (any version) will probably work well for any site. Your local software store will have several other web authoring programs.

Making the page
Of course complicated designs are a job for the website professional, but simple web pages are as easy to produce as typing a letter. You can even use new word processors to set up your website design and then save the page in HTML format which is the format, required for a web page. Once you have your final presentation on your screen, you just save it with your web page authoring program or in HTML format with your word processor.

To be sure your web pages present properly, you should view them with at least two browsers. Generally Netscape and Internet Explorer browsers will display web pages a little bit differently. Also remember that the screen which views your pages may be set to display big fonts (e.g. a 800 x 600 pixel display --
100 pixels=1inch ) or may be a smaller 14 inch screen. For an office website it is probably best to design something that looks good with an older version browser and perhaps a 15 inch screen set to display at 800x600.  So basically it is possible to set all this up in one free Saturday morning with a total cost the first year of about what your Yellow Page ad will be.

Pictures
An office website should have several pictures. If you don't have a digital camera then borrow one.  Website pictures need to have a file size or bite count that allows a browser to quickly upload the page.  In general your picture needs a byte count below 50K and the total of all the files attached to your page needs to be far less than 100K.   If your page takes longer than 30 seconds to load, your web page is not likely to attract many visitors.   Pictures for a simple office website will be in the JPG format for photographs and GIF format for clip art, drawings, or animations. Your local Kinko's or copy shop can also scan your personal pictures into the JPG format and then crop the picture and cut the byte count so the picture will work well for your website.

Technique
Some of the pearls of website design are:
Always put all your pictures in one directory and always reuse the same file since this will let your browser load pages faster.
Stay with lower case file names since addresses are case specific except for the main title.
Never use spaces in your file name since you really can not tell the difference between that and an underline,
          and a space can wreak havoc on some software addressing.
Check your website with Netscape 3.0 or 4.7 and a 28K modem before you finish with your site design
          and check your website from at least one computer that you did not use when designing your site.
          Address problems are more likely to show up when you use someone else's computer in place of the
          computer that you used to design your site.

Getting your data from your computer to the website
Since all communication and file transfer is done via the web, there is no need to look for an ISP close to home.  You just set up your website on your home computer, then transfer the files to your ISP account. Transferring your files is accomplished with  File Transfer Protocol (FTP) software. The software that does the transfer is free or  a minimal charge if you want a quality program like CuteFTP. These file transfer programs are available from download sites like www.download.com.

Front Page and most new web page authoring programs also have an automated upload feature that will transfer all of your work to your website. The entire process takes just seconds and is basically just the process of copying one subdirectory  from one computer to another.


Selling your office on the idea of an office website
If you spend a few hundred dollars per year on a Yellow Pages ad, then surely you could spend half that on an office website.  Patients that come to you via the web are often more desirable and more likely to take advantage of special services your
practice offers. Your cost to set all this up is likely to be as simple as
$ 35 to reserve your name 5 minutes at a registration site
$150 to host your site for 1 year 5 minutes at the ISP website
$ 50 for your web authoring program a trip to the software store and the copy shop
$ 35 for your FTP program to upload your  files 2 hours to make your basic web pages
$ 30 for Kinko's to scan a couple pictures for you 5 minutes to upload your pages
$300    Total 2 hours 15 minutes    total

Local sites
Many medical offices in the Ozarks already have their own office website and in the near future most offices may have their own site.
Some of the local sites are listed below

1 www.adultmedicine.com
2 www.erworld.com
3 www.HeadacheCare.com/hcc/01.htm
4 www.WomansClinic.net
5 www.ClarkeOrthopedics.com
6 www.ohaclinic.com
7 www.SpringfieldENT.com
8 www.adultmed.salu.net
9 www.mountaingrovemedical.com
10 www.facialplasticsurgerycenter.com
11 www.OzarkMedicalAssociates.com
12 www.gcmsonline.com
13 www.stjohns.com
14 www.citizensmemorial.com
15 www.BransonDoctors.com
16 www.coxhealth.com

Now that you have a few pointers, maybe it's time for you to start your own office website                                
 
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