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How to... set up and run a practice website

A website provides a 21st-century tool for improving patient communications and services. Do not be put off by the unknown; setting one up is remarkably easy. It is a low-cost investment that pays for itself almost immediately through efficiency savings.

In setting up a site, consider the following:

1) What do you want it to do? Do you want it to be an internet-based practice brochure, advertising details such as address, contact details and surgery times, or do you want it to be interactive?

2) Interactive websites will allow patients to make and cancel appointments, order repeat prescriptions and have e-consultations with a clinical member of staff.

3) Do not make your website too verbose, complicated and lengthy. It is better to have a simple site that does a few things well than a cluttered one that tries to be too comprehensive. The former is more likely to be updated regularly. Out-of-date information does not inspire customer confidence.

4) Delegate an IT-competent doctor, with administrator assistants, to research, set up and thereafter manage the project.

5) There are a number of commercial website designers that specialise in GP websites. Look them up on the internet. View examples. Draw up a tabular checklist of what you require and use it to compare the various advertised products.

6) Visit other GP websites for ideas. Phone up and speak to the practice managers of sites that stand out. Obtain recommendations.

7) Choose a supplier with a good reputation and some longevity. Be aware of the hosting and annual running fees.

Practice websites are fun and have genuine health and efficiency gains. Eventually every practice will have one, so why not set yours up now?

Dr Jim Sherifi is a GP in Sudbury, Suffolk

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