Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD
Establishing a Web site is one of the best ways to market your practice effectively. Web sites are the perfect medium to communicate a large amount of information to a large number of people. A properly designed, high-quality Web site can help you retain current patients and attract new ones. We are service providers in a buyer's market, and communication is a very important attribute. A Web site will show others what you have to offer, educate potential patients about new advances in dentistry, and give you the opportunity to differentiate your practice from others.
The statistics and demographics on Internet usage are staggering:
• Twenty-eight percent of the U.S. population was online as of 1998. The latest surveys indicate that 64 percent of Americans aged 12 and older have used the Internet in the last year, and 31 percent say they do this every day.
• Using email is the most common activity (86 percent). Nearly half of all users have purchased a product or service online.
• Sixty-nine percent of users go online at home, 17 percent are online at work, 7 percent access the Internet at school, and 5 percent surf the Net at a friend's house.
• Forty-four percent of Internet users are online an hour or more in an average day.
• Over 800 million documents are available on the Web. That number is estimated to double every 20 months.
• Some 1.4 billion emails are sent each day. This breaks down to 58,333,333 emails per hour or 972,222 emails per minute.
• From August 1999 to August 2000, the number of domain names increased from over 9 million sites to over 21 million.
• If you lined up every Web address in existence from end to end, it would add up to over 27,000 miles long (the circumference of the earth is only 24,000 miles).
• Forty-six percent of people who go online use the Internet for health information.
• Internet use increases 50 percent each year ... it will reach 152 million people this year.
• Women account for 86 percent of dental appointments made and are the health-care decision-makers in the household. Women account for 51 percent of the new subscribers over the past 12 months.
• People who visit your Web site are doing so deliberately, not by accident. When existing or perspective patients visit your site, they are very receptive to new information.
• Your site is up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People can visit whenever they wish and gain information at their own pace.
• Web sites can be interactive.
• According to a Time magazine survey, 70 percent of people who are online for health information say that the information found influences their treatment decisions. Eighty percent say that they trust the information on a doctor's Web site. Sixty-three perent say they'll switch to a doctor with a Web site that offers credible content and secure communication.
With a dental practice Web site, you are:
1. Educating people before they come into your practice. Then, you can concentrate on treatment acceptance when you see them in your practice.
2. Convincing perspective patients that your practice is a comfortable, warm, and caring environment.
3. Keeping patients informed about what is happening in your practice.
4. Attracting new patients that are looking for a new dentist.
5. Providing a higher level of service by offering valuable information to potential patients when and where they want it.
In upcoming issues of Dental Economics, I will try to guide you through the process of designing and building a Web site. Your practice will benefit to a great extent from this effort.
Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesman and critical-issue-response-team chairman for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is www.dfdasmiles.com. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at (314) 567-5612, or by fax at (314) 567-9047.